Fast Tech, Filling Our Landfills à la Mode

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A recent study conducted in the UK reveals a shocking surge in “Fast Tech” waste as nearly half a billion small electrical items were discarded in the past year.

  • The “Fast Tech” waste includes disposable vapes, cables, headphones, and more.
  • Despite being perceived as disposable due to their low cost, these items contain valuable raw materials that are recyclable.

A new study reveals that nearly half a billion small electrical items, ranging from cables to disposable vapes, were discarded in the UK in the past year.

These items, collectively known as “Fast Tech,” include disposable vapes, cables, headphones, and other small electronics, and they represent the fastest-growing category of electronic waste (e-waste).

The Material Focus research, which surveyed 2,000 people in collaboration with Opinium Research, indicates that 471 million “Fast Tech” items were thrown away in the UK within a year. This trend poses a significant environmental challenge and raises concerns that it might surpass the issues associated with fast fashion.

The results of this survey indicate that a staggering 471 million “Fast Tech” items were discarded in the UK in the last year. Among the items disposed of were:

  • 260 million disposable vapes
  • 30 million LED, solar, and decorative lights
  • 26 million cables
  • 10 million USB sticks
  • 7 million cordless headphones
  • 5 million mini fans

These items are often perceived as disposable due to their low cost, although they contain valuable raw materials, such as copper wires and lithium batteries, that can be recycled.

Scott Butler, the executive director of Material Focus, emphasized the need for greater awareness regarding the recyclability of these items. He stated, “People may not realize that they contain valuable materials and will just pop them in the bin, meaning we lose everything inside them instead of recycling them into something new. We want to get the message across that anything with a plug, battery, or cable can be recycled.”

Globally, consumers discard approximately 9 billion kilograms of similar small electronics, often without recognizing them as e-waste, according to research from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum.

While Material Focus’s research shows some positive trends, such as a decrease in electrical waste since 2017 and an increase in recycling rates, there remains a significant issue with hoarded electrical items in households. On average, there are 30 unused electrical items per household, indicating a need for more awareness and convenient recycling solutions.

With 880 million unused electrical items in UK households and over 100,000 tonnes of electrical waste discarded each year, addressing the growing e-waste issue is imperative. But is it really the consumers’ fault?

Tech companies have for many years made “unique” products that needed specific attachments. You couldn’t just plug your iPhone into a Type-C charger. There’s also the problem with cheap and fast. More often than not, they don’t guarantee quality.

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