Five gold rings – made from laptops, baby cams and mobile phones

This Christmas Recycle Your Electricals campaign unleashes the potential of waste electricals by creating bespoke rings made of precious metals salvaged from recycled gadgets.

Wednesday 9 December, 2020

·      To raise awareness of the importance of electrical recycling, Material Focus, which leads the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, has partnered with a jeweller to create the ‘Five Gold Rings’ collection, made from precious metals from recycled electricals. 

·      95 tonnes of precious metals including  gold, silver and palladium – equivalent to £857 million – could be recycled from unwanted electricals each year.

·      One in 20 people surveyed – approximately 943,000 people across the UK – are planning to pop the question this festive season, and could propose with a piece from the ‘Five Gold Rings’ collection. 

·      Lily Cole, environmentalist, sustainability advocate and model joins the campaign to inspire and drive action across the nation.

Christmas 2020 is set to be the most romantic on record, as a new study reveals one in 20 revellers – that’s around 943,000 people across the nation – are preparing to get down on one knee. To play cupid to these festive sweethearts, Material Focus, a UK not-for-profit organisation leading the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, is releasing the ‘Five Gold Rings’ collection, a series of bespoke rings made from precious metals recycled from waste electricals, with support from model and activist Lily Cole. The exclusive rings made by sustainable jeweller Lylie’s, are available this December to five lucky winners through an on-line competition. 

The research by Material Focus shows that over a third (39%) of those surveyed are choosing to gift jewellery like rings this Christmas, and a surprising 5% are planning to propose.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on nearly a third (28%) of respondents’ romantic plans. The virus has cancelled or postponed anniversary events (35%), made it difficult to keep the romance alive (27%) and caused financial concerns stopping lovers doing the things they want to do (27%). This has led to a quarter (25%) saying they intended to be especially romantic this festive period. 

The research also revealed that these romantic souls are considering ethical choices for their festive gifting. Nearly half (43%) would consider buying a ring made from precious metals recycled from electrical items, with nearly three quarters of respondents (74%) stating it’s because they support and believe in recycling, and close to one in five believing that the recipient would like it (18%). 

In response to the love – of each other and recycling – in the air, Material Focus has created the ‘Five Gold Rings’ collection in partnership with British sustainable jeweller Lylie’s. The handcrafted pieces, made from gold and silver salvaged from old electrical items, are an eco-friendly option and represent the potential of recycling electrical items. 

Supporting the campaign is environmentalist, sustainability advocate and model, Lily Cole, who joined the campaign to drive awareness of recycling electricals and encourage the nation to take action. Speaking on the initiative, Lily Cole said:

Both times I interviewed David Attenborough and asked him what individuals can do to improve their impact on the planet, his response was insistent and simple: ‘Stop Waste.’ Waste is not just literal – plastic in oceans, precious metals in trash, food releasing methane in landfill – it is also cultural and psychological. Our attitude to waste reflects how we view and value the material world around us, and the creativity we can apply to transforming ‘waste’ into new possibilities. Nature does not do waste! For nature, waste equals food. 

When researching my book Who Cares Wins, I was horrified by the amount of electronic waste that is produced every year, and how little of it is recycled. Yet electronic waste is unique in that it is highly valuable: e-waste often contains precious metals and finite materials, which can be transformed and reused. 

So when Material Focus reached out to me with their campaign to give away rings made from recycled e-waste, I thought it was a beautiful initiative to demonstrate the value in objects we might consider ‘waste’ and I hope the Five Gold Rings inspires a new perspective on the ‘junk’ most of us have hiding in our drawers.”

Commenting on the initiative, Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus, said:

Many everyday electricals such as mobile phones, TVs, laptops, and baby monitors contain small amounts of precious metals that can be extracted and given new life when recycled using new innovative recycling technologies. Our latest research has shown that a huge 95 tonnes of precious gold, silver and palladium could be recycled in the UK every year, worth £857million. 

“If all the unwanted  electricals we hoard or throw away every year in the UK were recycled, we’d have enough gold to make over 858,000 rings. We hope this campaign helps raise awareness and inspire the nation with the potential that recycling electricals has to offer.”

Despite the challenges of 2020, hopeless romantics prevail, with nearly a sixth (15%) of those surveyed saying they either intend to propose, or hope to be proposed to, this festive season – and it’s not just the women with their ring fingers crossed. One in 10 men admitted they hope their partner will propose to them this December and a fifth (20%) of 35-44 year-olds share the same Christmas wish. 

Whilst the research shows that many lovebirds would consider purchasing a ring made from precious metals, concerns still exist – such as confidence in the quality of the ring (34%), whether the precious metals are ‘proper’ metals (28%) and whether it will look good (20%).  

Speaking on these findings and the campaign, Eliza Walter of sustainable jewellers Lylie’s commented:

People often ask me if the rings we make are the same calibre as those you can buy in a regular jewellery shop. The answer is yes – in many ways the jewellery we make is much more precious. Our high-quality, certified pieces are proof that one person’s trash can literally become someone else’s treasure. I’m passionate about helping people discover just how special and valuable recycled jewellery is and this partnership will help people realise the potential that their electrical waste has.”

Discarded electricals or “e-waste”, are one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world and in the UK. Annually, 155,000 tonnes of electricals are thrown away by the nation, alongside 527 million items hoarded –  instead of being recycled or reused, these electricals have a major impact on the environment. Material Focus was established to address this issue, by raising awareness of electrical recycling and transforming the way residents of the UK think about unwanted electricals through the organisation’s ongoing Recycle Your Electricals campaign. To make it easier to recycle, the campaign website includes a postcode finder with details of nearly 2,500 recycling and reuse points across the UK. 

Hopeful and hopeless romantics who have had their romantic plans ruined by Covid-19 can follow @salvagegold and @recycleyourelectricals to find out how you can enter the competition.

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About Material Focus 

Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation whose goal is to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding their old small electricals. It has launched the new UK-wide Recycle Your Electricals campaign. The campaign is revealing the value hidden in electricals and is making it easier for us all to recycle and reuse the small electricals we no longer need by providing more recycling points and providing practical information on how households can recycle.

The campaign is funded by producers of electrical appliances. The UK government sets annual targets for the recycling of all waste electricals, including small electricals. If producers of electrical appliances don’t meet this target, then they contribute towards a fund (WEEE Fund). The fund pays for a range of activities, including communications, behaviour change activities, increased recycling projects and research. Ultimately, the aim is to support actions that will help the UK increase the levels of reuse and recycling of waste electricals.

* While the UK is in lockdown due to Covid-19, Material Focus advises checking opening times for local recycling facilities, and following government social distancing advice.

Data on the amounts of silver, gold and palladium, the number of gold rings – source early insights from research commissioned by Material Focus and conducted by Giraffe Innovation Limited and Swansea University – Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings (SPECIFIC). The full report  “Technology Roadmap and Taxonomy of Critical Raw Material (CRM) Recovery Technologies for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)”, will be launched in early 2021.

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