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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Electrical goods: greener choices

A lot of energy is used to make and run electrical goods like computers, TVs and games consoles. When they are thrown away, harmful chemicals can leak into the environment and valuable metals can be wasted. You can help by buying energy efficient products, keeping equipment for longer and recycling.

The wider issue

Running electrical equipment is one of the biggest uses of electricity in most homes, so it adds to climate change and your bills.

The average person in the UK throws away more than 3.3 tonnes of electrical waste in their lifetime. If this is not disposed of carefully or recycled, chemicals can leak into the environment and harm wildlife or contaminate water. Valuable metals like gold, copper, aluminium and iron will also be wasted.

Cut energy used by electrical equipment

You can save money and cut CO2 emissions by buying energy-efficient electrical equipment and taking care not to waste energy.

Buy energy efficient products

The following tips can help you choose energy saving electrical equipment:

  • choose the smallest product that fits your needs - smaller products usually use less electricity than bigger ones of the same type
  • look for the EU energy label, which rates appliances on an energy efficiency scale and shows how much energy they use
  • choose energy efficient computer equipment, for example laptops which use about one-sixth of the energy of a desktop computer while running
  • look for the Energy Saving Trust Recommended label, the Ecolabel or the Energy Star and TCO labels for IT equipment

Find out more about energy labels from the Energy Labels article.

Save energy when using equipment

Energy is used by electrical items left on standby and by chargers left on at the plug but not connected to an appliance. You can save energy by:

  • unplugging your chargers or switching them off at the socket when not in use
  • turning off TVs and other equipment at the set or plug, not by using the remote control
  • turning your monitor off when you leave your computer
  • using energy saving settings on your computer

Keep equipment longer, reuse and recycle

When you buy a new electrical item, ask the retailer if they will recycle your old one

If you are thinking of throwing away an electrical item:

  • consider keeping equipment like your mobile phone or computer for longer, which can save you money, save energy and cut waste
  • pass on unwanted items for reuse - over half of electronic items thrown away are still working or could easily be fixed

If you do need to dispose of electrical items, make sure they are recycled safely and do not put them with household rubbish.

Follow the link below for practical information on making equipment last longer, passing on equipment for reuse and safe disposal.

Use fewer batteries

Every year, 25-30,000 tonnes of portable batteries are thrown away. You can help save raw materials and energy by using fewer batteries and recycling them when they are spent. It's important to recycle batteries as they can contain valuable metals. Some also contain harmful chemicals like lead and mercury which can leak into the ground. To reduce your battery use you could try:

  • plugging gadgets into the mains while using them
  • using rechargeable batteries when you can, so fewer batteries are thrown away
  • recycling used batteries where possible - use the link below to find out where there is a recycling point close to you
  • buying wind-up or solar gadgets like radios and torches, so you can do without batteries altogether

Additional links

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