7.5 million unused electrical toys gathering dust in UK homes

Media Release, 28th September 2023

  • New research reveals there are 7.5 million unused electrical children’s toys gathering dust in UK cupboards
  • 72% of these toys are working and could be donated through registered schemes and toy charities
  • Despite it being easier than ever to recycle, there were still 3 million toys sent to landfill in the last six months – that’s enough to fill Hamleys flagship Regent Street store nearly 14 times over!
  • Get ready for International E-Waste Day (October 14th) with a big clear out – it’s never been easier to donate and recycle

New data from the Recycle Your Electricals campaign has revealed UK cupboards are overspilling with nearly 7.5m unused electrical kids toys. Toys are one of the electrical items most likely to be gathering dust in the nation’s cupboards. Around 60% of the most popular children’s toys of the last decade are electrical, from smart watches to battery-powered trains, soft toys that ‘come to life’ to toy cars and karaoke microphones to houses with working lights. 

72% of households say these unused electrical toys are still working. They could be donated to toy charities and schemes such as The Toy Project, YoungPlanet, and Toys4life, for a second life at playtime. Around 16% say their unused toys are broken or not working and these could be recycled.

An unbelievable 3m toys – around enough to fill Hamleys Regent Street (Britain’s biggest toy store) nearly 14 times over – have been sent to landfill in the last six months. These could have been recycled into items such as life-saving medical equipment, playgrounds or wind turbines, thanks to the valuable materials inside.

Market research also showed unused toys are being kept for a range of reasons: as a spare or back-up item, because they bring back memories or have sentimental associations, or if they were a gift.

With the kids back at school and International E-Waste Day less than a month away, there’s never been a better time for a clear out! With many households using up valuable cupboard space on children’s e-toys like walkie-talkies, interactive books and game consoles, the Recycle Your Electricals campaign is encouraging families to free up space and empty out toy boxes guilt-free. Simply find your nearest drop off point via the Recycle Your Electricals’  Recycling Locator – recycling has never been easier!

Joanne Batty, a self-proclaimed technology lover from Leeds, has two daughters aged 8 and 11. Joanne finds it difficult to let go of old or broken toys for sentimental reasons, and because she worries her kids will eventually want to play with them again.

Joanne said: “We have over forty of the kids’ unused electrical toys gathering dust at home. From fairy lights to electronic board games, singing teddy bears to walkie-talkies – our dining room is packed full of toys the kids have been gifted or persuaded us to buy. We try to donate them to charity shops but if a toy is broken, we’d normally just throw it away. I didn’t realise you shouldn’t just bin them and that anything with a plug, battery or cable can actually be recycled. It makes me so happy knowing that when we have broken electrical toys or do a big clear out in the future, we can give them a second life”

With many consciously making greener choices, the campaign is the perfect reminder of the small, constructive steps we can each take when it comes to our unwanted tech. Anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled and it’s never been quicker or easier to recycle your unwanted, broken or outdated electricals with over 16,000 recycling points across the UK which can found on Recycle Your Electricals postcode locator. E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the UK and often it’s not always obvious what counts as electrical but things like toys are electricals if they have a plug, battery or cable.

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Recycle Your Electricals campaign, says, “As a parent myself, I know how easily toys build up in our homes and come birthdays and Christmas, I’m all too familiar with the struggle to make room for more to come! Not to mention a certain film making us all feel a bit guilty about clearing toys out…Their value shouldn’t end when they are no longer being played with. Electrical toys contain incredibly useful materials, like steel, aluminium and copper, so they can be recycled into something useful and if they’re still in working condition, they can have a second life when donated. As we build up to International E-Waste Day this October, we want to encourage parents to free themselves of unused tech and discover just how easy it is to donate or recycle.” 

Kick start your clear out ahead of International E-Waste Day with top tips from decluttering expert Vicky Silverthorn and avoid accumulating any more e-waste this Autumn…

Keep storage simple

Don’t over-complicate the way you store toys. Children love being able to easily grab what they want to play with, they don’t love battling with colour-coding or intricate levels of organisation. Use baskets and drawers and always put them back in the same location to create a natural system.

Recycle & Reuse

Never throw out electrical or battery-operated toys. If they’re in good working order, you can donate them through toy charities like The Toy Project. If they no longer work, you can recycle them. Just find your local donation or recycling drop off point – there are 16,000 across the country, which you can find using the Recycling Locator! You will most likely see a designated space for small electricals. Remember to take out batteries (and recycle them too) before you pass things on.

Get your children involved 

Getting kids involved in the decluttering process will create good habits. Whilst decluttering with my daughter, I leave a small manageable pile for us to go through together, making it a really positive process – instead of “You’re too old to play with this now”, you could say “Do you think another child would enjoy this more, now you have your new toy you love so much?” or “We won’t have enough room for your new toys when it’s your birthday!”. 

Vicky says “In today’s fast-paced world, electrical toys have become a ubiquitous part of childhood. But as all parents know, kids outgrow things quickly and toys can easily pile up. Decluttering isn’t just about tidying up; it helps give kids the right environment for creative play. And the good news is, you don’t have to feel bad about it because toys can either go on to a worthy cause or be recycled into something useful.”

International E-Waste Day (IEWD) 2023 is happening on the 14th October! The day aims to engage individuals, retailers, local authorities, businesses and communities to participate in this year’s campaign by encouraging everyone to recycle their electricals. 

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For more information:


More top toy decluttering tips from Vicky Silverthorn:

Organise your toy wires, cables, and chargers!

If you don’t know where something is, then it could end up being replaced unnecessarily! Organise your toy chargers and cables and give them a designated home. Divide them into the categories that work for you whether it’s by brand or by type. Put a label on the plug or even around the wire so you can find what you are looking for easily. Putting the work in initially will save you time and money long term!

Store properly

Saving children’s toys for future siblings is a fantastic idea. However, it’s important to store these properly – especially e-toys. The batteries should be taken out before being packed away. Batteries could leak and stop the toys from working in the future, so it’s worth taking the time to do it properly. As always, make sure you’re not throwing the old batteries away in the bin but recycling them, too.


Studies show that having less mess around can create better focus. This means children will benefit from their play areas being kept tidy. The magic answer here is to ensure the number of toys you have doesn’t outweigh the space and storage you have to house them. When things start to overflow it’s most likely time for a declutter.

Too many toys

Did you know too many toys can cause children stress? Think about when you have too many clothes in your wardrobe and you have to fight to find what you need. The choices are overwhelming and decisions are harder. This is the same feeling your child gets, only with their young developing minds, they can’t understand why. Ensure toys aren’t crammed in their storage spaces, check that they are easy to access and ensure the amount and the choices aren’t overwhelming. 

Notes to Editors:

Consumer Research was conducted by Opinium, July 2023 amongst a nationally-representative sample of 2000 UK adults.

Recycling information provided by Material Focus.

IEWD was founded by the WEEE Forum, the international association representing producer responsibility organisations. The UK lead member is REPIC. IEWD is open to any one to participate. Stay tuned for more details on how your organisation can get involved and make a difference on International E-Waste Day by emailing hello@materialfocus.org.uk.

Other sources footnoted.

About Material Focus

Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation whose goal is to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding all their old, small electricals. Material Focus is delivering the 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 as well as providing practical information on how households can reuse and recycle.

The campaign is funded by producers of electrical appliances which 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.

Picture captions (LONG)

Credit: Recycle Your Electricals

New research from Recycle Your Electricals has revealed there are 7.5 million unused electrical toys cluttering up UK cupboards. The not for profit is encouraging parents to dig them out and donate or recycle them in the run-up to International E-Waste Day.  www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk

Case study: Joanne Batty and her children Jasmine and Emma

Credit: Recycle Your Electricals

Like families up and down the UK, Joanne Batty [and her children] from Leeds have unused electrical toys cluttering up their cupboards. They’re part of the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, encouraging families to donate or recycle any unused toys with a plug, battery or cable. In the last six months, three million toys went to landfill. 


Picture captions (SHORT)

Credit: Recycle Your Electricals

Recycle Your Electricals is encouraging people to donate or recycle unused electrical toys.

Case study: Joanne Batty and her children Jasmine and Emma

Credit: Recycle Your Electricals

Recycle Your Electricals’ case study Joanne Batty from Leeds didn’t realise electrical toys can be recycled. 

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