Why it’s time for Give-Back January

5 million unwanted electrical items with donation value of almost £160m thrown away or hoarded in the New Year.

5 January 2021

November and December have been revealed as the UK’s biggest spending surge on household electricals and tech, through research undertaken by Material Focus, the not-for-profit behind the Recycle Your Electricals campaign. The research has been commissioned as a part of its launch of the Give-Back January initiative – with the help of TV presenter Andrea McLean and her husband Nick Feeney. In a year when we have relied on domestic technology devices more than ever before, the research conducted by Opinium found that:

  • 41% of UK adults (21.4 million of us) planned to buy tech over the festive trading period.
  • This could result in a staggering 53.5 million electrical items being bought in the five weeks from 23 November to 24 December.
  • Almost a quarter of us say we buy electricals the most in the five weeks between Black Friday week and Christmas, more than at any other time of the year.
  • Almost 3 million of us planned to send at least 2.7 million older, unwanted electrical  items to landfill.  
  • Over 2 million said they will hoard at least 2.2 million older items somewhere at home.
  • If donated to someone in need, all items sent to landfill or hoarded would have a donation value of almost £160 million – according to the Reuse Network.
  • Whilst only 19% said they were planning on donating to charity, 67% said they would, knowing that old electricals CAN be donated to those in need.
  • Brits throw away enough festive lights to reach the moon (and half way back!) – an incredible 573,588 km of lights are thrown away, on average every 4 years.

Old unwanted electricals are creating the UK and the world’s fastest growing waste stream. The Recycle Your Electricals campaign is calling on UK households to stop throwing away and hoarding their small old electricals and instead start doing something useful with them by donating or recycling them. 

On the 12th Day of Christmas (5 January) the Give-Back January campaign will be launched as an antidote to the mass consumerism surrounding Black Friday and Christmas. The celebrity and digital influencer-backed Give-Back January campaign is being led by Andrea McLean and her husband Nick Feeney, supported by a host of household names and sustainability-minded people including Kate Thornton, Konnie Huq and home organising guru Nicola Lewis, aka This Girl Can Organise. They will be seen dehoarding and boxing up old items ready to be recycled or donated to charity once lockdown measures allow – and encouraging the UK public to do just the same during January. The campaign has been developed in response to the rising tide in electrical waste, and to help meet the growing necessity for more affordable, low-cost and no-cost tech to help those in need. 

What have we been buying? 

  • In a Covid-19 Christmas, consumers ditch Chanel No.5 for a PS5; 46% say they will ditch fashion and beauty gifts – because there is nowhere for us to wear them.
  • A quarter say they are instead buying more tech this year, with one fifth doing so in order to help them work from home.
  • As many more UK households continue to work from home, almost 5 million WiFi boosters have potentially been bought.
  • New-year juice diet? Almost 7 million kitchen blenders will be bought this year to kick start the January health regimes.

Top five electrical items Brits were planning to buy are:

  1. Smart phones
  2. Headphones & earphones
  3. Tablets 
  4. Laptops
  5. Speakers & smart speakers.

Scott Butler, the Executive Director of Material Focus, the organisation behind the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, said “We all know that UK households go on a big spending spree between Black Friday and Christmas.  Our Give Back January campaign is designed to give people an opportunity to to do something useful with their old unwanted electricals. With so many people experiencing financial hardship or in need of more tech to respond to the events of 2020, we all need to consider donating or recycling our old electrical items – they are worth almost  £160 million to those in need. If your old electricals are truly at the end of their life do not throw them away, as they will end up in landfill, please instead recycle them as a minimum.”

Andrea McLean and Nick Feeney commented, “We love Christmas, but being part of this important campaign has been a true eye-opener. If we are buying so much over the Black Friday and Christmas period, then we all have a responsibility to ensure we do something useful with our replaced items. To think that 5 million old electricals are not going to good use but could be worth almost £160 million if donated is something we all need to be aware of. Do not hoard or throw out old electricals – help those in need or recycle it!”

At the start of January, and for the first time ever, all large retailers selling electrical goods will be obliged to take back old electrical items on a like-for-like basis, meaning if you buy a charger from your local electrical retailer then you can drop off your old one there – making it much easier for householders to recycle their electricals.

Anyone wishing to organise their own Give-Back January can find their nearest recycling or donation points via an easy-to-use postcode tracker. Some neighbourhoods also have a kerbside collection service.


For further press information please contact East of Eden:


Notes to Editors

About the Recycle Your Electricals campaign

Recycle Your Electricals has a goal to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding all their old small electricals. 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. The campaign is doing this by providing more recycling points as well as providing practical information on how households can recycle.

About the research

Research was conducted by Opinium from 27 November to 1 December 2020. Research was carried out among a sample of 2,000 UK adults aged 18+ and has been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

Find out how you can get involved today

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