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Travelling tellies – where does our electrical recycling go?

Most electrical appliances don’t last forever, and there comes a time when they need to be replaced. But how easy is it to recycle old televisions? Where do they end up?

To find out where our electrical recycling goes we put GPS trackers into six televisions, took them to Comet, Currys and recycling centres and tracked where they went. One TV we recycled at a Croydon recycling centre went to China by boat, stopping off at Greece and Sri Lanka on route.

Another we took to London’s Lambeth recycling centre went to Kent to be dismantled. The tracker didn’t survive this. However, the council said parts would have gone toB elgium, China, Germany, South Korea, Sweden and the UK.

Did they all get recycled?

The TV (or part of it) that we took to Currys, ended up at Southampton docks. After an investigation, Currys couldn’t explain our television’s destination, so it appears that all or part of it may not have been recycled.

Currys said it believed this was a one-off that it was investigating internally, saying that its approach to recycling is ‘… in full accordance with government processes, uses approved processors and is regularly monitored by the relevant authorities.’ You can see what happened to each of the TVs we recycled by watching our TV recycling investigation video.

Are we actually taking our electricals to be recycled?

When we asked people what they actually do with their old appliances, it turned out that many smaller appliances aren’t actually taken to be recycled. In our survey of more than 2,000 Brits, only around a third of people said they took their old appliances to be recycled. More than one in ten admitted to putting them in the bin – this was higher for small things like irons and kettles.

And a fifth of people hadn’t done anything at all with them. This certainly rings true with me. I’ve got an old laptop that’s been sitting in my flat, not getting recycled, for two years. Without a car to get to a recycling centre, I don’t see this situation improving any time soon.

Do you take your electricals to be recycled? How easy is it to do this near you? What would make it easier?

Do you recycle electrical goods?

Yes, I take them to a household recycling centre (54%, 269 Votes)

It depends on the item (22%, 112 Votes)

Yes, I take them to a charity shop (6%, 30 Votes)

Yes, my local council collects them from my home (4%, 22 Votes)

No, they just gather dust (4%, 22 Votes)

No, I repair them instead (4%, 21 Votes)

No, I just put them in the bin (4%, 20 Votes)

Yes, I take them to an electrical shop like Currys (0%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 502

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Within the last couple of months my local council has included a small electrical items collection once a fortnight.

Anything better they will come and collect but you’re then expected to pay upwards of £20.


I do take electrical goods to be recycled and nothing has gone in the bin since I learned that the service is available. If something stops working I try to repair rather than replace it. When I was clearing my parents’ house I took electrical goods to charity shops.

I keep power supplies and other useful parts from faulty equipment because they can come in handy. I would not recommend this to anyone unless they know what they are doing.


Near to me, in Sittingbourne, Kent, is the worlds first TV tube recycling furnace (2012). TV tubes do not need to be exported. They are boiled and refined right here and recover up to 1 kg of lead, the pure glass and all the other goodies and nasties in a fully sealed system. I don’t know about the rest of the TV set though, I guess we can do that too.


I try to repair things first if they have any re-use value. Then I pull them apart to recover any parts that I can re-use. After that it is the local supermarket “pink bin” for small electricals, the battery bank for batteries (where I have manged to recover quite good lap top batteries to re-use). Larger items of course go to a local re-cycling depot which is easy to use. I use the local “Freecycle” or “Freegle” web site to both collect and dispose of items. Your old laptop would be very welcome there reciever collects.
There really is little excuse in very recent months here for not recycling electricals.


I imagine that you are having the same problem as me with the poll. It would be good to be able to choose multiple answers.


Quite. In fact I do 7 of the 8 choices given in the poll. I forget which one I actually went for, probably the repair them one.


I’m in the “It depends on the item” camp as I have to confess that I have put some small electrical things in the rubbish bin as the alternatives are just not convenient, and charity shops don’t want broken or ancient appliances. The things I could repair never seem to break but the things that go wrong defy all attempts at mending. If I can get into them I will try to recover something for reuse, even if it’s only the lead and plug to use as an extension or spare [correctly rated and fused of course, Wavechange, unlike some of those continental types].


One of the options in the poll is: Yes, I take them to an electrical shop like Currys (0%, 0 Votes)

In an earlier Conversation it was mentioned that retailers had an obligation to recycle old products but when I investigated this I found out that Tesco claim to contribute to municipal recycling services in order to discharge their liability to accept goods for recycling.

Can anyone provide any information on whether well known stores will accept anything more than used batteries?


I bought a new chest freezer from Comet in September, when they delivered it in late October, they took the old freezer away ( although I did have to pay £10 for them to do it, booked at the time of ordering the new freezer). I have no idea where it ended up though.

Oddly enough they didn’t unwrap the new freezer or dispose of the mountain of plastic wrapping paper, which I had to do myself.