Can you Recycle Old Cables, wires, and Leads? a Quick Guide to Saving the Planet
New technology and the gadgets and appliances that we use to access it are constantly being upgraded, on average a computer will last 3 – 5 years before its out of date, and mobile phones last 1-2 years before they are updated, which means that old electronics are constantly being discarded for the latest updated tech.
We generate around 40 million tonnes of electrical waste every year around the world, this is a problem and we all have a responsibility to reduce waste as much as possible,
With so many updates and changes to your gear, you are probably like me, and have a drawer or box full of old wires, cables, and chargers that come with our ever-changing gadgets, so what can you do with them, can electrical wires and cables be recycled?
In this article, we take a look at the best options for reusing and recycling these often forgotten
Can Electrical Wires and Cables be Recycled?
So what can you do with a box of old cables that don’t fit your new phone, computer or kettle?
Electrical wires and cables contain materials that can be recycled. The inner Copper cores and Aluminium sheathing are valuable and can be reused whereas the protective plastic covers are usually PVC or Polyethylene and of little value.
Generally, electrical cables can be sold, reused, donated or up-cycled into new products.
Cables that are recycled are generally stripped of their plastic outer covers and the copper cores removed to be reworked into something else, more wire or other parts for different electrical components for example
This means that only part of the old cable is reused and the less valuable plastic is normally discarded as waste. The recycling process uses lots of energy and other resources in order to repurpose the metals inside.
Taking your old electrical wires or cables to your nearest recycling center will help clear out your clutter but is it the best way to reuse them? Let’s take a look at some great alternatives
Can You Sell Old Electrical Cables and Wires?
Lots of people and companies keep hold of older technology for various reasons; they may be technology enthusiasts or inventors that use or develop old technology.
Often companies will need to keep some legacy hardware and require spares to keep them running and your old cables may be something they need.
You can sell your old cables by listing them on sites like Gumtree, Craigslist, eBay, or your local area listing.
Generally, metal recycling centers will take old wires and cables for the copper and aluminum inside them.
Quite often they will only accept the metal wire, which means the outer covers and insulation needs to be removed first, this can take time but you will also get a better price for bare copper.
You can also sell to electrical liquidators, these are companies that buy old electronic goods to sell to manufacturers or other people who need them.
The quantity they accept depends on the company you visit. More often than not you will need a number of cables to sell rather than just one or two, so once you have a full box or more, this may be an option.
Can You Reuse Electrical Cables?
Reusing old cables is probably the most environmentally healthy way to reduce waste. Lots of electronic equipment share similar plugs and sockets which makes reusing old cables easier.
So unless you are a fan of Apple tech you should find that your old USB cable or kettle lead will plug into new gadgets just double-check the specs on the plugs to make sure you have the right fuse and amps before you plug in.
I find it’s always a good idea to have at least one backup cable for each connection type, they are always handy for recharging mobile phones, or replacing an old cable that may be worn out.
Once you have all the cables you will need, try offering your spare cables to friends or family for the same reason.
If you don’t have anyone else that you are close to, to give your old cables, maybe our next option will be of interest
Can You Donate old Wire and Cables?
If you don’t have anyone local that you can give your spare cables. Donating cables, leads and connectors to other local organizations is another way to make use of them rather than throw them away.
Quite often your local university, college or training centers that focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) are in need of leads and cables for laboratory testing, students and site equipment.
You can also try online sites like Freecycle to share your items with others who are looking for things like cables or wires.
Can You Upcycle Old Cables and Leads?
Another option to make further use of old cables and wires is to up-cycle and use them to make and create something new.
Even if you don’t have a flair for the artistic, upcycling is a great way to reuse and recycle old cables and leads from old electronic gadgets or tech.
Here are a few examples of things you can create using a bit of time and your hands:
- Workshop Tools: Wire is useful for making hooks, hangers, and drying lines, which can be used when spray painting and gluing parts.
- Table decorations: Copper wire can be used to create fantastic shapes and sculptures which can dress a room, like table centers, napkin holders or even coasters
- Christmas Decorations: Create tree decorations and Christmas-themed sculptures using the cores from old electronics cables and leads.
- Jewelry: With a variety of colors available in cables and old equipment leads, making jewelry is another great way to reuse these unwanted items, from polished copper rings to brightly colored necklaces, earrings to bracelets the scope to create are only limited by your imagination.
- Wire sculptures & art: From simple numbers or letters to complex tree sculptures, old cables, leads, and wires can be crafted into all sorts of wonderful items to brighten and decorate your home.
- Bowls and baskets: You can use old electrical wires to weave baskets and holders to store your odds and ends.
- Pictures and Wall hangings: Copper Cable can be used to create fantastic pictures or hanging decorations.
When it comes to up-cycling and reusing the old unwanted wires, cables, and leads from gadgets and electrical equipment there is no end of things you can do instead of throwing them away,
So why not give some of these ideas a try and help save the planet one cable at a time.
This article was written by: Richard Quinton – The DIY Help Desk Owner, Engineer & technical specialist.
Richard is one of the key partners in The DIY Help Desk team. He is a qualified Engineer, writer, and publisher, educated to Master’s level. He is a keen advocate of DIY and home improvements.
Richard enjoys helping others to learn new skills and reach their goals and believes that passing his knowledge and experience on through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the lifestyles and well-being of others on a larger scale.