Data breach concerns cause fear around device disposal
Data breach concerns cause fear around device disposal

Seven in ten people in the UK are being put off recycling old and unused electrical products because of concerns about personal security data breaches.

Personal data security fears are preventing households in the UK from disposing of old, broken and unused electricals correctly, according to a new survey by REPIC, the UK's largest WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipmentproducer compliance scheme.

In a survey of more than 1,000 people conducted in September, REPIC found that 69 percent of respondents admitted to having concerns about their personal data being breached. A third of these admitted they were more likely to keep hold of waste electrical and electronic equipment as a consequence.

To complicate matters, more than a quarter (26 percent) of those questioned didn't know how to delete their personal data, while a third (33 percent) didn't think that they needed to, the research revealed.

The survey also suggests there is a significant generational gap in attitudes towards data security.

Over three quarters (76 percrent) of 16-29 year olds are most worried about the security of their private information, whilst only 59 percent of people aged 60 and over voiced it as a concern.

Across the age groups, 30-44 year olds were most likely not to delete their personal data from electronic devices before disposal.

Mark Burrows-Smith, REPIC's CEO, said:  “These results are really telling in what drives people's recycling behaviours and the need for increased education around how householders remove personal data before disposal.

“The Internet of Things means that connectivity is the norm and with more and more people synching their personal data to electronic devices, it is clear that there is a real risk that old or unused electricals are being stockpiled due to fear and miseducation.”

Despite this the survey did unearth more positive results.

In 2016, 31 percent of respondents cited lack of knowledge about where to recycle their electronic devices and gadgets. This year the figure dropped to 21 percent. More people than ever are aware their devices can be recycled, with just 17 percent unaware compared to 28 percent in 2016.

The survey also revealed a move by the general public to donate, sell or pass on electricals that are still in good working order – suggesting that minimising waste and keeping working products in circulation is increasingly on the public agenda.

Respondents are most likely to give electronics and gadgets to a friend or family member (39 percent), sell them online (34 percent) or take them to a charity shop (31 percent). Although a third of people also admit to keeping them in the garage, shed or under the stairs.

Producers, who face an uncertain future, will be encouraged by this.

“Overall the results paint an optimistic picture that attitudes and behaviours are moving in the right direction – yet, as always, it is clear from these findings and the issues the WEEE industry is facing, that we must adapt to changing consumer behaviours to ensure this continues on the right trajectory,” said Burrows-Smith.

The issues facing producers include DEFRA's proposed changes to the WEEE regulations in the UK, published in October, which are likely to increase the costs of WEEE compliance and affect some manufacturing sectors disproportionately, leading to a loss of confidence in compliance schemes.

In addition, compliance fees paid amounted to £665,000 last year, which was far higher than the £46,000 paid by producers in 2015. This suggests that last year companies relied more on the fee to compensate for failing to meet collection obligations than they had previously.