Guest Blog: Small Actions for a Big Difference on Climate Change

In this Guest Blog we hear from Scott Butler, Executive Director of Material Focus, on their newly launched campaign to raise awareness on the issue of electrical appliance emissions.

Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus

Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation leading the charge to help the UK meet its electrical re-use and recycling targets. 

As the world leaders meet at COP26 to shape our planet’s future, we not only need to be looking to the huge challenges, opportunities and targets that will be set, but also to the smaller actions that we can all take to make a big difference.  Although the focus will be on the traditionally perceived 'biggest contributors' to climate change, energy and transport, we should also remember that it's the energy involved in mining and producing key products that can also make a big difference to our climate emissions. 

Billions of products contain rare earth materials that form a key role in the way we live. From tech devices and household electricals, to batteries and wind turbines, all require energy to mine and manufacture their key components. Recent research commissioned by Material Focus revealed  that if the UK recycled all the electricals we currently throw away or hoard every year 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions could be saved. This is the equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road. 

Currently only one third of people in the UK are recycling their electricals, contributing towards one of the fastest growing sources of waste in the UK. 155,000 tonnes of waste electricals are thrown away in the UK each year, alongside 527 million items hoarded in UK homes. 

To highlight this challenge, we were invited to display a series of images in the Blue zone at COP26  taken by award-winning photographer Gregg Segal.

The four birds eye view pictures were taken illustrating the huge amount of unwanted electricals each UK household has hoarded in their homes. Working with Gregg, we hoped to surprise and inspire households to take the small and simple step to start reusing and recycling old electricals. 

In this picture we can see Rupert, the tech collector, with his 3 children. Gregg focussed this image on the huge number of cables in the UK. There are 138 million cables hoarded in the UK – enough to go around the Earth 5 times. Recycling your old electricals is one of the many actions we can all take to reduce our CO2 emissions.  

Material Focus, as part of a longer term project,  has provided funding for the Remade Network to repair, redistribute or recycle all electricals they receive during COP26 with all proceeds supporting digital inclusion and community repair projects across the city.  For the full list of locations visit www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk 

So whether it's recycling electricals, or any other waste, we need to look across our society at the smaller actions we can all take.  By acting together we  can all make a big difference to climate change.  

After #COP26, we will be looking for a venue to display our lifesize Gregg Segal photos. Please contact [email protected]  if you would be interested in displaying these images.

Craig Melson

Craig Melson

Associate Director for Climate, Environment and Sustainability, techUK

Lucas Banach

Lucas Banach

Programme Assistant, Data Centres, Climate, Environment & Sustainability, Market Access, techUK