Shocking research results: loads of perfectly reusable devices end up recycled

Yesterday Restart released the results of what we think is an important piece of work. In March we ran a “waste composition analysis” at the Brent reuse and recycling centre which also hosts the Fixing Factory.

In addition to filtering out the laptops which get refurbished at the Factory, we wanted to test all electrical products brought for recycling to establish their reusability potential. The results of this work will definitely be of interest to @London Restarters, but we expect the situation to be similar everywhere else in the UK.

We were shocked at what we found. We tested 599 products that members of the public brought to be recycled, and found that 36.2% of them – or 217 – had the potential to be immediately reused, while an additional 57 (9.5%) required only minor repairs. That’s almost half of the electricals headed for recycling that could have had a second life in the hands of someone who needed them.

It looks like we need a Right to Reuse, in addition to the Right to Repair! Our full report gives a lot more information on the environmental and financial value of the products that could be diverted from waste. As a result, we call for filtering for reuse to become mandatory at all household waste and recycling centres.

I wanted to thank the team of Restarters who tested all these products: @Mario_De_Marco @Stefania @Ten @sami - :clap:t4: they experienced first-hand how broken the waste management system is. We will campaign for this to change, relentlessly.

Read more here:

Also, a reminder: there’s only a few hours left to donate to Restart as part of the Big Give, which will match fund any donation to us made up until April 27th at 12pm UK time. Thanks to those of you who have already donated - please spread the word and donate if you can in the next few hours:

Thanks for your ongoing support!


What I found even more shocking is the appalling approach of Amazon to the so called “sustainability” issue. They may have big experts with fantastic credentials from top universities as employees advising them on these issues, but they fail in the simplest ways of becoming truly “climate champions”. My nephew gave me his Kindle (3rd generation) released in 2010. The Kindle has been locked in a cupboard for many years. I thought it would probably not hold the charge anymore. To my surprise, it works perfectly. So after updating the device I contacted Amazon as, when trying to link the device to my Amazon account, it would not recognise my password. After being on the telephone with Amazon Customer Services, I was told Amazon’s policy is not to allow old devices to be reused. She instead offered me a 15% discount if I buy a new Kindle. I told her that I could not understand that policy since it will mean to throw to the dump a perfectly working device. Without being able to link that device to my Amazon account, I cannot access any of my purchased Kindle books and render a perfectly working device utterly useless. WHAT A WASTE! Furthermore, when I complained via Twitter to Amazon (I joined Twitter for this purpose only), I was told that I could trade-in the device (for a new Kindle). The problem is that even if I wanted to do that (which I don’t), the device has to be registered in my account (which they don’t allow me - because it is too old), for me to be eligible for the trade-in. I simply think this is wrong. It is one of those working devices condemned to the dump by Amazon’s misguided policy.


This reminds me @ugo of the first time we peered into a WEEE skip together in Kentish Town in 2012. No wonder the waste contractors wanted to keep us out! But the horror never diminished.

Let’s hope the time is right for reuse now. We need regulation that also allows for the refurb and resale of these goods, right? Other EU countries seem to be leading the way in terms of policy and regulation. And even some waste contractors seem to see the writing on the wall here in the UK.

And as @Maria_Muriel-Sanchez points out, manufacturers themselves are probably some of the biggest generators of electronics destined for the shredder. They should be forced to drop these mandatory-shred agreements they have with companies they contract to take goods away.


Hi @Maria_Muriel-Sanchez, thanks for sharing this - a practice I didn’t know about. It doesn’t make any sense, and it shouldn’t be allowed. The range of barriers that manufacturers put in place to limit our rights to using, reusing and repairing our products is simply out of control. We should be collecting all this evidence for future policy consultations


I’ll never forget that visit to the waste and recycling centre in Kentish Town @Janet - where we witnessed members of the public being told to smash a laptop in a skip so that they would be sure it wouldn’t be taken out. This was 2012, and it took us 10 years and a pandemic to start filtering laptops for reuse in Brent…

Lots need to change, as the system is broken for everyone in the UK.

One key aspect is the confidential contracts between local/waste authorities and waste contractors.

And as you hinted, manufacturers at times have contracts to prevent reuse of specific products when collected by some contractors. Over the years, some have anecdotally told us infuriating stories about this…

Reuse targets as in some European countries might be part of the solution - we’ll write more about this in the near future… Stay tuned :wink:


That’s a perfect example of this happening in practice.
steal_this_comic_-_xkcd|498x469 (Published 15 years ago.)
It’s typical behaviour from Applezon and is why the process of unlocking such devices is known as “jailbreaking”, because they both keep you imprisoned within their DRM systems.

I would always recommend an EPUB reader over a Kindle device. You can get a Kindle to function as one, but not everyone has the confidence to implement the steps needed to do so. I expect the average Restarter to be more willing to try it though.

I can also corroborate what was found in that study.
We have a very successful re-use charity here named Moray Waste Busters, and I’ve seen them so swamped with perfectly re-usable electrical devices that they don’t even scratch the surface of that fraction of the waste stream that might get working with a little repair.
There are also issues where they cannot sell some usable devices if they don’t have a CE certification mark, which in the case of some old and higher-quality devices may have only been present as a sticker that fell off, or may have predated the CE standard entirely (introduced in '93) but are still perfectly safe to use.


Thanks @4ndy, this is another little ‘secret’ which we’ve also witnessed. Wherever reuse happens, there’s often more products than what people can handle in terms of capacity, so it’s more likely that products requiring repair are not prioritised, as (understandably) easily reusable ones take priority.
This is another reason why community repair activities are so important: they can help prevent the replacement of products much more effectively than a system where a broken product is donated to a reuse project. Also, we’re hearing from partners across Europe that the figure of 45% reusable products in e-waste bins resonates with them. So, the problem is huge everywhere!


By coincidence, I also got a very cringe-inducing email from Gumtree yesterday:

We need you to kick start a Consumption Rebellion
Our latest research shows that Brits are set to waste a whopping 44 billion kilograms of carbon this year on new homeware purchases alone - that’s the equivalent of flying to Spain five million times.*

53% of us don’t realise the negative impact these fast homeware purchases have on the environment.**

So we’re here to try to put a stop to overconsumption. Will you join us on our Consumption Rebellion and commit to thinking second hand first this spring?

Whether that’s new plants and posts for the garden, a new BBQ or some soft furnishings to give your home a spring spruce.

Let’s shop second hand this spring and make some savings, for your pocket and the planet.

Their Footnotes

*The statistics are provided using a model, developed at the University of Leeds, that calculates the embodied Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) associated with the production of all goods and services consumed in the UK. The data provides an average carbon footprint for the product and may not be tied to the price listed on these examples. It also does not take into account that there could be any variation within the sector dependent on the specific product or brand.According to the UK Government and University of Leeds, one shower = 1.2kg carbon, heating a home for one day = 6.3kg carbon and per passenger, one flight from London to Barcelona is 0.15832kg of carbon / 1,337kms (distance between London to Barcelona).

**Research conducted by Censuswide in the UK between March 29th – 31st 2023 and of 2,000 nationally representative consumers aged 16+. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles

By cringe, I don’t mean at the facts of waste, but more at the approach of an online bazaar feigning some appeal to “rebellion”. I might not have wanted to call it greenwashing, if they hadn’t made the background to the email literally bright green instead of their usual beige. :man_facepalming:

Not everyone has time out of their working life to be a salesman in order to support reuse, and many of us would much prefer to just hand a device over to a 3rd party to take care of that, hence these re-use centres. Unfortunately the options for that are very limited to a few key locations, and even the well linked-up high street pawn franchise CeX only handles a narrow variety of entertainment goods, so there’s a big disconnect between where people are searching for something to buy/hire/use and where people can easily take used products.


Thank you for inspiring our article on LinkedIn today. Since you published your study MIA has finally felt validated after banging on publicly about this very issue since 2011.

1 Like

You say that not everyone has time out of their working life to support re-use and the general public would prefer to just hand over a used device to a re-use centre. In my experience people would really prefer to use their spare time to learn how to repair and re-configure their own belongings, this goes back to periods of war and economic hardship and is evidenced by the massive publication boom of DIY magazines of the 60’s and 70’s. Homewares, motors, televisions and radios, were all targeted at that time and the real problems that we have nowadays are “plastics”, automated assembly and lack of education in practical skills together with the profit motive of manufacturers issuing new models just to make their earlier ones supposedly obsolete. I have been a re-user all my life and know that there is nothing like the satisfaction of “fixing” or re-purposing something that has failed. However, these days, I am prevented at every turn by safety legislation, lack of council involvement and modern assembly techniques not to mention the profit orientated refusal of manufacturers to provide spares or information about their products.
I have recently been prevented from repairing a perfectly usable item of white goods for our kitchen when I could see a dumped item at a local council re-cycling centre from which I could have liberated a re-usable spare worth about £5.00 (un-obtainable from the manufacturer) because the local operatives were under instructions to prevent anyone from taking anything away from the site. Appeals to the council and the re-cycling officers produced no assistance so the end result will be the disposal of yet another piece of white goods and the cost of buying a new item for several hundreds of pounds which we can’t afford.
The re-cycling movement needs to target government and councils to assist the “repair and re-cycling” particularly of e-goods and electrical gear. I am always appalled by the waste of timber in our local tip. Pieces of perfectly re-usable timber are sent to be disposed of when they could be sold to the public at a fraction of the cost at a DIY centre and the funds could be used by the council. It makes no sense at all.
Our TV programmes are full of people who are able to liberate items from the waste chain. I don’t understand how they do it !!!
Regards David.


David, is your comment shareable publicly, please? If yes, can make it anonymous. No pressure either way. Thank you.


1 Like

Hi, Thank you for your message. My post can be made public but I do not know how to make it anonymous. I have removed my surnames in my account, but it does not amend the post that I published a few days ago about my experience with Amazon.

1 Like

Maria, I was requesting if I could share @David_Michael_Willoughby post, anon. Sorry to confuse you. Karen

1 Like

I was confused as well when I saw someone else replying to your message.
I have absolutely no problem with my message being shared with my name or without. Maybe it should be made clear that I am posting from the UK. My comments refer to UK government and councils. I’m sure that people have similar feelings and problems wherever they are in the world (I don’t know about the USA) so please go ahead.


Apologies for the confusion and thank you for your reply and permission to repost your message. I will post it to Linkedin to compliment MIA’s article The Hidden Secret of E-waste and will make it clear that you are David from the UK. Kind regards, Karen

1 Like

Shared to our Linkedin post with thanks. Surname kept anon.

1 Like

Hi everyone, thanks for your perspectives and experiences. With this piece of research, we’ve barely scratched the surface. And indeed as @David_Michael_Willoughby points out, in some cases even non-fully reusable appliances could unlock further waste prevention via harvesting of parts.

The logistics of all of this is obviously complicated, but this shouldn’t be an excuse for allowing the waste of plenty of reusable products and parts. The turbo-capitalist system we live in has perfected the same-day delivery of almost anything. We can do better for people and planet if our governments focus on facilitating removing barriers to reuse and repair what’s already produced.

Please keep sharing stories and perspectives, they’ll help make the case for change stronger

Finally, one note about posts in this category in the Restarters forum: while it’s absolutely correct to ask permission to repost outside of here, as @Mend_It_Australia, you should all remember that the Right to Repair conversations are “public” in the sense that they can browsed and read also by people who aren’t registered users of this platform. The same applies to two other discussion categories: Events and How to Repair in your Community


A person I speak to occasionally told me that they regularly go to the electronics recycling bins in their city in the UK. The bin has a size-restraint which means items larger than a medium printer cannot be deposited.

They recover a range of different electrical items, and by item count the quantity of items that do not need repair to be used for their intended purpose is around 30% (rough guess). However, lots of these items are things like USB cables and things which are old or “obsolete”. I am told the quantity of obsolete, working items is overwhelming.

Even in the cases where these items still have some value to some people, the need to be sure they are truly still working means that they are costly to troubleshoot compared to their value. It is the eternal paradox of community repair, it’s not viable under a capitalistic, for-profit business model. Fine, so be it.

However, I am told that by mass of items, the majority of larger items do have a fault of some sort which needs diagnosis and repair.

Most of the items which do not need any repair at all have a value under £10. It is estimated that this makes up 20% of the items by number.

Apparently, common non-faulty items which are not obsolete are things like battery LED lights, non-USB-C laptop chargers and many items which require non-rechargeable batteries.

There are almost no laptops or phones, but I am told that other people visit the same bin so this may affect the perceived frequency of certain high value items.

The person does not recover kitchen appliances, under the assumption they are all broken (and they are relatively large) but maybe they should, after seeing this data.

So, while I agree that waste filtering would be valuable, it’s not an instant win because there is a significant potential cost associated with trying to figure out what, if anything is wrong with the items, then rehoming items which are generally quite low value and not wanted.


@David_Michael_Willoughby here’s a reply to your comment that was posted on our Linkedin platform

“David is absolutely correct; built-in obsolescence is designed into what I call ‘fast trashion’ (not just electrical items but furnishings, fittings, fixtures, clothing, toiletries & well, everything really). Social systems that encourage re-use & repair of existing items should be first priority. Design phase of new items also need to make these a fundamental (but first question to be asked - is a new product actually necessary or are there existing alternatives)?” Jenny

1 Like

CHOICE in Australia is the leading consumer advocacy group in Australia. “We want your voice to be heard loud and clear when it comes to anything consumer-related, …”

Unfortunately MIA’s voice has not been heard loud and clear when it offered to provide information to its recent article on BUYING SECONDHAND ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES. MIA has been tweeting its feedback to an article that, in our opinion, requires some further clarification.

And MIA’s x 8 tweets atm and continuing…

1 Like