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"Sparks fly" over throw-away electrical items, including vapes

Sparks are flying over the growth in throw-away small electrical items such as vapes – which are now dwarfing "fast fashion" as the UK’s leading "throw-away" commodities.

New research from the not-for-profit organisation Material Focus has revealed that for the first time, more small electrical items are thrown away each year than the fast fashion items that had held the top spot for many years.

It said that around 90 per cent of fast tech items are thrown away each year, compared to 30 per cent of fast fashion items. 

The UK threw away almost half a billion small electrical items over the past year making it the UK’s fastest growing e-waste stream. 

Material Focus found that consumers spend an average of £4 on “fast tech” items such as cables, lights and disposable vapes. 

The group estimates that around 100,000 tonnes of waste electricals are thrown away each year and there are around 880 million electrical items of all types lying unused in UK homes. 

Many of these items contain valuable materials such as gold and aluminium which can be retrieved when the items are recycled. 

According to Material Focus, materials contained in any electrical item can being recycled into new items such as wind turbines, life-saving medical devices or even children’s playground equipment and electric vehicles.

Material Focus found that around 60 per cent of people said they recycled their electrical items, which is an increase from 52 per cent in 2021. 

Commenting on the news Scott Butler, executive Director at Material Focus, said that many people do not realise that most small and cheap tech items contain valuable materials. 

“Fast tech is seriously rivalling fast fashion and is causing similar headaches. People should think carefully about buying some of the more frivolous fast tech items in the first place,” he explained. “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. 

“The scale of the issue is huge, but there’s an easy solution – just as the trend for recycling and repurposing fashion has grown and grown, we want to encourage the nation to recycle fast tech, guilt and fuss-free.”

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