Not always easy:
How can I recognise an electrical appliance?

It is not always clear to Swiss people which item is an electrical appliance. Especially when the electrical and electronic components are less obvious or less relevant in use, they have doubts. This is shown by a study by SENS eRecycling on the attitude of the Swiss population to the return and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment. This increases the risk that these devices will end up in the waste instead of being recycled. With the further technologisation of objects, such ambiguities are likely to increase and more and more recyclable materials will escape recycling. With simple examples and a 5-point checklist of how to recognise an electrical appliance, we help to identify electrical appliances.

One thing is clear: the broken fridge or the old hoover don't belong in the rubbish. But what about Mila's talking doll? Can I put it in the rubbish bag after removing the batteries? Many Swiss people find it difficult to clearly classify objects as electrical appliances. This is especially true for appliances or toys where the electrical and electronic components are less visible or play only a minor role in their use. This is shown by the results of a study by SENS eRecycling on the subject: for 85% of those questioned it was clear that a remote-controlled car had to be disposed of separately. In the case of the talking doll, however, where talking is only a secondary function for the enjoyment of playing, just under a fifth of the respondents were convinced that the doll does not have to be disposed of in special waste, but can be disposed of in normal waste after the battery has been removed.

New technologies, new raw materials

With the increasing technologisation of objects, it will become even more difficult in the future for the majority of the population to clearly identify objects as electronic devices. While today we still wear our smartwatch visibly on our arm, in future small computer systems (so-called wearables) or sensors will be sewn directly into our clothes to support us in everyday life. And this without distracting us or attracting our attention. In addition, there are new technologies for generating electricity, such as solar cells. All these new objects, however small and inconspicuous, contain valuable raw materials such as aluminium, iron, copper or even gold that can be recycled. To ensure that these materials continue to be recycled in the future and thus return to the circular economy, it is important that each of us knows the characteristics of electronic devices.

5 features: How to recognise an electrical appliance

  • Does my item have a cable or plug that allows it to be connected directly to the mains?
  • Does my item contain a rechargeable battery or batteries?
  • Is my item used to produce light?
  • Is my item used for cooling?
  • Can my item generate or store electricity?

Where do I dispose of my electrical appliance?

Worn-out electrical and electronic appliances can be returned free of charge wherever these appliances can also be purchased or also free of charge at SENS collection points. You can easily find your nearest collection point on the Recycling Map.

Did you know? – E-cigarettes are also electrical devices

An electrical device that is often not recognised is the e-cigarette, or "vape" for short. Some are as colourful and handy as highlighters, so that no one realises that they contain a battery or rechargeable battery. In 2022 alone, 844 million vapes were disposed of worldwide. The lithium they contain could have been used to make 15,000 new batteries for electric cars. In Switzerland, consumers can return their empty e-cigarettes and the associated components such as the charging cable, battery or battery carrier free of charge to any point of sale such as kiosks, petrol stations or tobacco shops. Since 1 July 2023, sales outlets have also had the option of collecting e-cigarettes in the practical vape recycling bag and returning them directly to SENS eRecycling by post for professional disposal.