Nearly half a billion small electricals such as cables, lights, mini fans and disposable vapes, were thrown away last year, research from Material Focus has shown.

These “Fast Tech” items, the electrical version of fast fashion, are the fastest-growing e-waste type, it says.

The average home also has thirty unused electrical items gathering dust, the research shows.

These items contain valuable raw materials, and all can be recycled.

The not-for-profit group Material Focus commissioned a survey of 2000 people from Opinium Research. Based on the responses it calculates that 471m “Fast Tech” items were thrown away in the UK last year, including:

  • 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.

The average cost of £4 for these items encourages consumers to see them as disposable, though they aren’t always designed to be.

They all contain valuable raw materials, such as copper wires and lithium batteries, which can be recovered through the recycling process.

Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus, said: “People may not realise 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 and there’s somewhere near you to do it.”

There is a similar picture worldwide. Every year consumers throw away 9 billion tons of cables, toys, vapes, novelty clothes and similar devices which they often don’t recognise as e-waste, according to research from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum.

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