Business electrical waste: Over 200,000 tonnes thrown away annually in the UK

The UK government is preparing to consult on potential changes to the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations. The consultation provides an opportunity for revised legislation to drive improved outcomes in the collection, reuse and recycling of waste electrical and electronic products.

Whilst significant work has been done to understand the amount of electricals bought, used and disposed of by consumers, there were still significant data gaps on the flows of electrical goods into and out of businesses and other organisations. Material Focus commissioned Eunomia Research and Consulting to carry out research to improve estimates and create an evidence base for targeted interventions and policy action.


The research used a series of methods to investigate the key issues. This included reviews of published literature and new analysis of up-to-date national statistics data, which was extended through surveys and stakeholder engagement with producers, trade associations, compliance schemes, retailers, public sector organisations, waste contractors, AATFs and other groups. Through this stakeholder engagement, some of these groups also provided previously unpublished data which helped to provide a more accurate picture of flows of goods within the system. In addition to this, two sampling studies were undertaken at WEEE and metals recyclers and site data was obtained from waste transfer stations. Finally, the CO₂ savings associated with current levels of business WEEE recycling were modelled, as well as the potential further savings if more business electricals were appropriately recycled.

Key findings

  • Up to 484,000 tonnes of electricals were bought by businesses and other organisations during 2019, including phones, IT and appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. This is nearly 30% of the total of 1.7 million tonnes of electrical goods that were bought by both consumers and businesses in the UK during 2019. One reason for this is that businesses, such as corporate offices, house-builders and residential landlords are estimated to be buying consumer household electrical appliances in very significant quantities for use in their premises, something that hadn’t been covered in previous research.
  • At least 108,000 tonnes of business electricals are currently being recycled through Approved Authorised Treatment Facilities (AATFs).
  • Up to 200,000 tonnes of business electricals are being thrown away with general waste.
  • Up to 109,000 tonnes of business electricals are being recycled with light iron at scrap metal processors, instead of going through AATFs, which often means that some valuable materials don’t get recycled;.
  • Up to 29,000 tonnes of business electricals are being illegally exported.
  • Up to 5,000 tonnes of business electricals are being fly tipped, with clean-up costs often being paid by local authorities.  

Businesses under the Environmental Protection Act 1990  have a duty of care to responsibly dispose of all their business waste, including electricals. Waste electricals from businesses should be reused where possible, such as donating to local reuse organisations, passing onto staff or working with Information Technology Asset Disposition (ITAD) organisations to handle their end of life IT equipment. Where reuse isn’t possible, electricals should be recycled by an AATF. 

Businesses should first look to the producer of their electricals, who often have a responsibility to take back these electricals at end of life. Where this isn’t possible, they should make arrangements with professional waste collectors, such as commercial waste companies or local authorities, or direct arrangements with specialist electrical recyclers (AATFs), to make sure that their unwanted electricals are appropriately recycled.


Overall the research concluded that whilst the work improved overall understanding of the purchase and disposal of business electricals, more work needs to be done to improve reporting across the full lifecycle of these products, including reuse stages. It also highlighted that businesses and other organisations would benefit from clear information on why and how they can reuse or recycle their electricals. You can download the Business Electrical Waste Challenges and Opportunities Full Report here or the summary below.

Business Electrical Waste - Challenges and opportunities - Summary Report

Eunomia research and Consulting
July 2022
30 pages. PDF

Wide shot of an industrial kitchen, clean and empty. Business electrical waste report cover.