Everyone is familiar with the “everything drawer”. Bank statements, bills, alumni correspondence from your old uni, blu tack, bits of old ribbon, a flattened packet of Quavers and the nail scissors – all rammed into one ramshackle kitchen drawer. But as the UK hurtles evermore into the 21st century, it seems the deadweight of the everything drawer has been usurped – by the gadgets drawer.
A new study from the Royal Society for Chemistry (RSC) has revealed that UK households are hoarding millions of old devices in their homes, including laptops, smartphones and digital cameras. The tendency to hold onto redundant gadgets after breaks or upgrades comes as users either don’t know how or where to dispose of them, or are reluctant to part with items they once sunk considerable costs to.
In a scenario worthy of a Toy Story sequel, it’s estimated that up to 40 million once-loved, once-indisposable gadgets are currently lying unused and long-forgotten in homes around the UK.
But the phenomenon is doing more than just wasting valuable storage space. It could be stifling new innovation, as unused devices contain many finite elements that are essential for manufacturing a range of consumer tech devices. Supply levels of these elements have got so dire that some could run out within the next century, explains the RSC’s Dr Elisabeth Ratcliffe, speaking to the BBC.
Take the curiously named Yttrium, which is used in camera lenses, LED lights and some cancer treatments; or Gallium, used in solar panels, telescopes and medical thermometers. These are just two elements whose natural supplies could be exhausted in the next 100 years if gadgets continue to be stockpiled.
Currently, research commissioned by the RSC reveals that 51% of UK households have at least one unused gadget lying around, and 45% have up to five. The vast majority of those surveyed – 82% – have no plans to recycle these devices.
And with the rate of gadget ownership climbing, the potential impact is burgeoning: 52% of 16-24 year olds have 10 or more gadgets in their home – that’s a lot of potential e-waste.
So what can you do? We recommend Music Magpie, the UK’s number one phone recycler. You can sell your phone, tablet or smartwatch on the platform here. If you aren’t looking to buy or sell old tech, and just want to see it recycled responsibly, you can search for your nearest electronics recycling point here.
Whatever you do, make sure your old gadgets aren’t consigned to your desk drawer for eternity. If we want to safeguard new innovation, recycling is the way forward.