What's the cost of throwing away rather than repairing?

This press release from ReLondon for London Repair Week has some interesting estimates on the (financial) cost of buying new rather than repairing, based on some recent polling:

According to the release:

  • “Londoners discarded an estimated £1.9 billion worth of repairable items last year”
  • “an average of £269.42 per adult in London”

Side note: our waste composition analysis at a reuse and recycling centre in London showed in microcosm how many fully functional or repairable items are being discarded for recycling.

The press release goes on:

  • “Londoners also forked out an average of £459.80 to replace damaged or broken items that could have been repaired”
  • “Extrapolated across all Londoners, this amounts to a jaw-dropping £3 billion spent replacing repairable stuff”

Not sure entirely how these figures are worked out. They’re extrapolated from a poll of 1,009 people, but no detail on how they estimated the cost of what was thrown away. Regardless, if they’re even close to being in the right ballpark, then it gives a flavour of what an eye-watering waste of money and resources it is to buy new rather than repairing when you look at it at scale.

What do you think? Any other things you’ve come across discussing the money wasted in throwing away and buying new?


I’d say the 36% of not-broken items being disposed of suggests this is not so much of a “cost” to many people, but rather these are things they just don’t want any more. Either because they don’t need them and are decluttering, or because they actively want to upgrade. That logic holds even when the item is broken. Modern marketing is aimed at getting people to desire the latest model, whether they need it or not.

I think in some cases getting things repaired is more of a luxury for those with the income and time to think about such things, and the ability in the first place to purchase things that are worth repairing and repair-able.


I have read your post regarding the disposal of damaged, broken and non-working items and I believe that you have missed the importance of the demographic of those attending repair shops.
I have been to several repair cafes in my area and, in my experience, the bulk of those bringing items for repair are over forty and many, like myself, are over retirement age.
If they think similarly to me, they bring items to the repair shop for a number of reasons:-

  1. The item is used regularly and has stopped working.
  2. The cost of a replacement item is prohibitive especially in the current economic climate.
  3. They have a perception that a replacement, although more expensive than the original, will last for a much shorter time than the original due to a poorer build quality, built in obsolescence, the incorporation in the new model of needless and power hungry features and the lack of availability of a direct replacement due to the movement away from British made items to imported goods.
  4. (and this is most important) An upbringing which puts “Make Do And Mend” at the forefront of one’s way of life. I have always made extensive efforts to repair rather than to replace.

It is interesting that the younger generations have been raised to be interested in recycling and other green issues but as they are frequently not the owners of older and more reliable items they are not focussed on getting items (other than modern electronic equipment) repaired.
I entirely agree with your statement that “Modern marketing is aimed at getting people to desire the latest model, whether they need it or not.”
However, as far as I am concerned, this really annoying and is a major inducement to get my older items repaired.
Let us take a toaster as an example ~ The Russell Hobbs toaster which we were given when we married in 1968 and which we used until just after we moved from the South East to the West Country in 2000.
I had no need to repair it for at least the first 25 years after which I believe I changed the mains lead as it was frayed. Later I replaced one of the elements and cleaned the thermocouple contacts. Both of these items were fairly easily accessible.
The casing was metal, not plastic and the product was assembled with screws rather than turned metal tabs. Eventually, as we were running a B & B after our move, we needed to purchase a four slice toaster which never worked as well as the Russell Hobbs original and had to be replaced regularly at decreasing intervals. Spares were no longer available, plastics were used as casing and disassembly was much more difficult. The build quality has decreased and I now have the “benefit” of a button controlled set of extra options which are never used. Enough said.
Maybe when collecting statistics, the age of the owner is important. The idea that people having things fixed is a “luxury” is, as far as I am concerned, very far from the truth.
I do agree that purchasing items that are repairable means buying into a market where “the higher the quality, the more it costs but probably the longer it will last.” A pair of high end leather shoes which last less than ten years would be most unlikely whereas a lower end pair of synthetic material shoes will probably have been made to just outlast the 12 month warranty.