With millions of pounds worth of precious metals being thrown away each year, Marie Turbill asks, could recycling your old electrical goods be the solution to one of UK manufacturers' biggest risks - a shortage of raw materials?
MOST of us would have to be hard-pressed to throw away a pot of gold.
But that is exactly what is happening every year as millions of pounds worth of precious metals are thrown out in the UK.
The precious elements such as gold, cobalt and neodymium, are used in everyday electronic equipment.
But their hidden booty is lost when the consumer goods end up in landfill.
At the same time manufacturers are increasingly reliant on metals from abroad - with chief executives citing a materials shortage as one of this year’s top risks.
“We throw away a million tonnes of electrical and electronic waste every year in the UK,” said Mark Penny, commercial manager at Hartlepool-based J&B Recycling.
“It has been estimated that the total amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in the UK is 1.8 million tonnes each year, of which approximately 51% comes from domestic users.
“The remaining 49% comes from offices, shops, businesses and other non-household sources.”
He says currently the recycling rates for most types of small appliance are very low with most thrown away in general waste.
Yet he added: “The UK has good treatment capacity for many types of WEEE, some of which is located right here on Teesside.”
Between now and 2020, the UK is expected to throw away 12 million tonnes of electronic equipment.
Almost a quarter could be fixed and resold in their current form, worth a potential £200 million a year.
Another quarter will be IT equipment and other goods which contain around 63 tonnes of palladium and 17 tonnes of iridium.
The amount of palladium lost would be worth £1 billion on today’s market, while the iridium would be worth £380 million.
In a bid to tackle rising consumer demand and an increasing reliance on metals from abroad the Government has launched an action plan to help businesses reuse and recycle the metals in products.
It is hoped it will help businesses find new ways of keeping hold of materials, so that they don’t go to waste.