Reuse your electricals

Guidance for getting the most from your household gadgets, tools and appliances

What is Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment?

Icons of electricals

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is generally, anything with a plug, battery or cable including:

  • Small household appliances
  • Large household electricals
  • TV and display equipment
  • Household and garden power tools
  • Audio and AV equipment
  • Smart devices and IT
  • Lighting
  • Toys and leisure equipment
  • Personal grooming appliances
The problem with waste electricals

A pile of waste electricals

Incorrect disposal of electrical items is a huge loss of valuable and critical raw materials (in 2019 the global value of waste electrical items was approximately €50.8 billion) and can cause serious health, environmental and societal issues.

Consumers may also be losing out by not recycling or trading in old gadgets and devices. For example, 4.7 million people (7%) in the UK admit to throwing their old phone away in a general waste bin, missing out on £6.9 billion of potential savings (Circular). 

How to safely repair electricals
Caution: Before making any repairs, ensure to check the terms of relevant product warranties as these could be impacted. Consider the risks, and health and safety implications: follow your tool manufacturer's operating directions, practice safety precautions (like using proper eyewear etc) and follow any other relevant guidance. If you are unsure or have any concerns, especially when making electrical repairs, please contact a suitably qualified professional.
  1. For basic faults with household gadgets such as poor battery life on your smartphone or a slow laptop see these top tips from the Restart Project.
  2. For issues you cannot solve yourself, a Repair Café might be the answer. These are community events where expert volunteers repair household items for a small donation. They also offer tea, coffee and sometimes cake! While having your item repaired, you can sit with the repairer and learn how to make the repair yourself next time.
  3. Hampshire has a growing network of ‘Repair Cafés’ where you can take items to be fixed. Note, some Cafés are currently being run virtually instead due to Covid-19.
  4. If you are handy with a set of tools or just fancy having a go at home, iFixit is a useful resource. You can find free repair guides for a wide range of household devices.
  5. Another option is espares. They sell spare parts for a wide range of household appliances, and their comprehensive expert advice section contains hundreds of articles, manuals and videos to help diagnose and repair common faults.
  6. For other items, search online, attend a class or visit your local library for guidance. 

From July 2021 the ‘Right to repair’ law came into force in the UK. This means that manufacturers must make spare parts for electrical appliances available within two years of all model launches, and then for between seven and 10 years after the model is discontinued, depending on the type of product. This currently applies to companies producing dishwashers, washing machines, washer-dryers, dryers, fridges, freezers, televisions and “other electronic displays” for home use.

How to donate or sell electricals for reuse

You can use online marketplaces and follow the same steps as for rehoming second hand furniture, when selling or donating electrical items and appliances. Just take care to remove any personal data first (see step 5).

As well as online marketplaces, some charities will accept electrical items for reuse. Southampton-based Jamie's Computers and the ReBoot IT project in Basingstoke accept old IT equipment and offer a free secure data wiping service. Another great example is the Community Calling scheme which rehomes old smartphones with people who really need them during the Covid-19 crisis. See the recycle your electricals campaign for more information on this and other schemes.

Recycle your electricals campaign logo

An increasing number of online and high street retailers now offer cash, vouchers or upgrades for your old gadgets. Search online to find your nearest options. You may wish to consider the following advice from Money Saving Expert when trading in an old mobile phone.

How to wipe personal data

Follow the 3 easy steps to delete your personal data:

1. Back up
2. Factory reset
3. Remove SIM and memory cards

For more details on the procedure see the recycle your electricals campaign.

What to do when all else fails

When your electrical items are beyond repair, please recycle them responsibly via one of the following means (remember to delete your data):

Important: Remove batteries and bulbs wherever possible and recycle these separately (see step 7). If you cannot remove the battery from a product that no longer works, the product and the battery should be recycled together with small electricals at the HWRC or waste electricals recycling point.
How to recycle batteries responsibly

battery with a face

Batteries can pose a serious fire risk if disposed of carelessly. Used batteries should be taken to your nearest Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) or to a battery collection point often found in supermarkets, DIY stores and many other public places. Find your nearest recycling point.

Consider rechargeables

To reduce the number of batteries you throw away, consider choosing rechargeable batteries instead of single use ones where possible, and selling or donating working, but unwanted, battery-powered items following our guidance above.

Learn more about safe disposal of batteries and the problems that can occur when they are disposed of carelessly and 'come back to life': Join the fight against 'Zombie batteries'!