Millions of unused mobile phones, DVD players and unwanted TVs are living in British households – as owners haven’t got round to sorting them out

A study of 2,000 adults found properties across the country are acting as storage centres for old tech items, because owners haven’t got around to sorting out their belongings.

Of those polled, 39 per cent currently have unused electrical items in their home, including 3.5 million discarded iPods, nearly 4,7 million unused headphones and 4.6 million retro VCR players.

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Reasons for holding on to outdated tech include keeping them as spares in case their current item breaks (17 per cent), hoping they can get it fixed (11 per cent) and not knowing how to get rid of them (nine per cent).

The research was commissioned by Virgin Media O2, which has teamed up with environmental charity, Hubbub, to launch the Time After Time e-waste fund for community groups and organisations to run projects that tackle e-waste and promote circularity.

It also revealed the most unused items were found to be mobile phones (23 per cent), DVD players (16 per cent) and TVs (13 per cent).

Items being outdated (15 per cent), no longer having a need (14 per cent) and being broken or faulty (12 per cent) are among the reasons electrical devices aren’t used.

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But these gadgets are typically held onto for six years, and kept in cupboards (30 per cent), attics (25 per cent) and garages (22 per cent).

Despite this, 31 per cent claim to be concerned about the impact of e-waste on the planet but 25 per cent don't know where their nearest electronic recycle point is.

Nicola Green, from Virgin Media O2, said: “It’s staggering how many old, unused, and outdated gadgets like phones, VCR players and USB sticks are gathering dust in drawers, lofts, and garages across the country.

“We know that people are worried about their old tech ending up in landfill and the impact it’s having on the planet.

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“That’s why we’ve launched the £500,000 Time After Time fund with Hubbub to fund eco projects that tackle e-waste and help old devices to be used again and again.”

E-waste is a pressing environmental issue

The study also found 51 per cent of adults don't think enough is being done to tackle the problem of e-waste, while 21 per cent feel guilty for not recycling old unused electrical items.

Nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) have taken an old or unused device to the tip, and 32 per cent have thrown them away with household rubbish.

While 28 per cent plan to donate goods to charity and 24 per cent hope to sell them when they get around to sorting out their unused electrical items.

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But more than half (53 per cent) still have personal data on unused electrical devices, including photos (52 per cent), emails (40 per cent) and work-related documents (26 per cent).

And 44 per cent don't know how to wipe such data from items they no longer use.

As a result, 34 per cent worry about their personal information being stolen or shared if they were to recycle a device.

It also emerged those polled, via OnePoll, would be more encouraged to recycle tech if it was easier (46 per cent), they knew where to take them (43 per cent) and if they could do so from their own home (30 per cent).

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While 73 per cent would help a local community group by recycling their old electrical items if they could.

But 56 per cent argued there is not enough information widely available about how to dispose of e-waste in an ethical way.

Gavin Ellis, co-founder of Hubbub, said: “E-waste is a pressing environmental issue and we’re encouraging organisations to apply for this funding with projects that remove barriers and help people to extend the life of their old electricals by repairing, passing them on or recycling them.

“Organisations can apply for grants between £10,000 to £75,000.

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"We’re urging people to spread the word about this funding which could have a significant impact.

“If you know a charity, social enterprise, local authority or community organisation running e-waste initiatives then do point them in our direction to apply for this financial support."

Top 20 unused electrical items in UK households

  1. Mobile phones - 14,701,968
  2. DVD players – 7,114,752
  3. TVs – 6,142,032
  4. USB sticks - 5,641,776
  5. Radios – 4,724,640
  6. Headphones – 4,669,056
  7. Printers - 4,585,680
  8. VCR players – 4,585,680
  9. Laptop – 4,446,720
  10. Microwaves – 4,446,720
  11. iPod - 3,501,792
  12. Cameras – 3,335,040
  13. Stereo players – 3,112,704
  14. Landline phone – 3,112,704
  15. Tablet/iPads - 2,918,160
  16. Computer keyboards – 2,834,784
  17. Cassette player / portable CD player - 2,723,616
  18. Computer mouse – 2,779,200
  19. Vacuums – 2,501,280
  20. Computer monitors – 1,945,440