Two thirds of UK households secretly ditch their partners’ hoarded treasures

Media release, 29 April 2021

Old partner gifts, dated photographs, unused cables, and wedding outfits are just some of the items Brits have admitted to having secretly thrown away without telling their partners.

British fashion icon and sustainability champion Dame Zandra Rhodes has designed a bag for Recycle Your Electricals campaign to make recycling of hoarded and unwanted electricals much easier for UK householders.  

Polling the nation, Material Focus, the not-for-profit behind Recycle Your Electricals, set out to discover just how frustrating UK households find it when their partners refuse to clear out old or redundant items cluttering and lying around at home. Offering an insight into what goes on behind closed doors, they found that a staggering 59% (nearly two thirds) of those polled admitted they are guilty of being a “secret thrower”. 

According to the research commissioned for Recycle Your Electricals Little Spring Clean campaign, a whopping 54% have secretly thrown out their partners’ old tech including cables, games consoles, laptops and tablets. Some 32% of UK householders who secretly throw out their other half’s items have discarded their partners’ old shoes unworn for years, and 24% of those surveyed didn’t think twice about also binning their old DVDs.

Whilst the lockdown hasn’t been easy for many relationships, it seems one of the challenges has been whether to keep clutter or to declutter. Of those questioned, 47% admitted arguing with their partners about hoarded clutter, with 56% of hoarders happy to be in a relationship with tidiers; but, by comparison, only one in 10 tidiers (11%) could bear being coupled with a hoarder. 

The top five secretly binned items, discarded in the general rubbish, by self-confessed “secret throwers” include:

  • 43% did not give a second thought to dumping old partner gifts 
  • A variety of obsolete or broken music equipment is binned, including VHS players (23%), cassette players (34%), old CD players (23%) and old walkmans (18%)
  • 40% confirmed they were unsentimental about their partners old photographs 
  • One in three (32 percent) has binned a pair of old shoes not worn in years 
  • 21% admitted to throwing out their partners old wedding dress or wedding suit.

Other unusual secretly binned items include collectable glasses, tickets, stubs and wristbands from gigs, and old teddy bears.

Whilst the “secret throwers” may be happily decluttering, many items which can be recycled are also binned, with only around 20% of “secret throwers” recycling their partners’ old electrical items. The top small electrical items being thrown by the “secret throwers” into the bin are: cables (33%), electric toothbrushes (25%), remote controls (20%), electric shavers (19%), and old phones (16%).  

However, they did choose to donate other items including old books (40%) and cookery books (33%), confirming they would give those to charity shops on the basis that they can be enjoyed by someone else in the future. 

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus, who commissioned the study to mark the launch of their Little Spring Clean campaign, said: “Waste electricals are the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and we are losing some of the most precious materials on our planet – gold, silver and aluminium. Our research has shown that Spring cleaning has increased by 20% compared to last year, so now is a great time to dig out your unwanted electricals, pop them in a bag and take them down to your nearest recycling drop-off point. You can find your nearest recycling point by searching for Recycle Your Electricals and using our postcode locator.”  

Nearly 80% of those polled confirmed they’ve been clearing out their homes throughout the lockdown. Alongside de-cluttering, UK householders are also investing in preparing their gardens for entertaining their friends. It is now about staging, lighting our outside spaces and investing in furniture and the ultimate garden utensil, the BBQ. 

28% of Brits have bought a new BBQ, 38% new garden furniture and 36% outside lights, plus 41% have invested in a hedge trimmer, 29% in a patio heater and 31% in leaf blowers. Let’s face it, if we can’t dine out in style, we may as well dine in, in style! Those surveyed have spent a, on average, a massive £894 on outdoor furniture, lights, patio heaters, BBQ’s ahead of Spring to ensure they can enjoy entertaining outside. 

Much like the smaller electrical items discarded by the “secret throwers”, the  unwanted and broken items that these new  outdoor electricals have replaced are also not being recycled. With only two out of 10 confirming they take their unwanted garden electrical items to a recycling centre. 

To make recycling of hoarded and unwanted electrics much easier for UK householders, Recycle Your Electricals have produced a printed, ethically sourced organic canvas tote bag, created by much-loved designer and zero-waste fashion campaigner Dame Zandra Rhodes. And once you have popped your electricals in your bag, you can find your nearest recycling centre by using the postcode finder.


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Research conducted by Perspectus Global and commissioned by Material Focus. Total sample size was 2,003 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25-30 March 2021.

The Dame Zandra Rhodes exclusive print tote bags are available in cream or white and cost £12 from All profits go to Waste Aid. 

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