Switched on to Value Report

14th November 2014

In 2012 WRAP commissioned the "Switched on to Value" report to research the ways extending appliance and consumer electronic product lifetimes and trading used products can benefit consumers, retailers, suppliers and the environment.

Key findings
UK market value for pre-owned products could be worth up to £3 billion
2/3rds of customers want to trade in products with a reputable high-street brand
33% of washing machines and 25% of vaccum cleaners failed to meet customer lifetime expectations
Change could add £800million in GDP to the UK Economy



Born from the research undertaken by WRAP’s Electronic Pathfinder Group, and initiated by the Product Sustainability Forum, the Switched on to Value report is the culmination of five years of research with 80+ organisations made up of grocery, home improvement, and electrical and electronic product retailers and suppliers, academics, NGOs and UK Government representatives.

Since undertaking research on the savings the UK industry could make through a more sustainable approach to Electrical and Electronic Products, WRAP have developed the Electrical and Electronic Products Sustainability Action Plan (esap) to tackle these issues with the help of brands, manufacturers and retailers.

Below you can find a detailed outline of the research that led to the development of this plan and use this to inform your thinking on the need for Sustainable Electricals

Top five products causing the greatest impact

WRAP has identified the priority products that contribute the greatest resource impact on the UK market, based on the volume sold and resources required to make them.

The priority product groups for action are:

  • televisions;
  • washing machines;
  • laptop computers; 
  • refrigeration products (fridges and freezers); and
  • mobile telephones.

This list was updated in 2015 when mobile phones replaced vacuum cleaners in the top five priority products.




WRAP's Switched on to Value report brings together research from a number of reports to draw the following conclusions:

£3bn - Value of electronic products in homes across the UKThe average home contains around £1,200 worth of electrical and electronic equipment but many householders don’t realise their used products still have significant value – this value amounts to around £3 billion across the UK


When asked two-thirds of UK consumers expressed a willingness to trade-in consumer electronic products and would prefer to do so with reputable high-street retailers.



Around a third of all washing machines and fridges, and a quarter of all the vacuum cleaners replaced in the UK each year failed to meet the average customer’s expectation for each product’s lifetime.

Extending the average life of lower-end appliances to match the current market average for all appliances would save around 750,000 tonnes of carbon emissions associated with production, roughly equivalent to one week’s CO2 eq emissions from all the cars in the UK.



Changing how we design, make, buy and dispose of electrical and electronic equipment could reduce our carbon footprint by up to 15% and add £800 million in GDP to the UK economy.



Read the full report >>

Chapter 1

This chapter of the report covers:

The environmental benefits of valuing longer-life electrical products.

Key Points:

  • Each year the UK buys 1.4 million tonnes of electrical and electronic products.
  • The lifetime greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of these products total around 160 million tonnes CO2 eq4.
  • In-use energy is the largest part of this impact, which is why government policy is driving energy efficiency in these products.
  • However, the supply chain (or “embodied”) impacts are significant, roughly 11 million tonnes CO2 eq, and these material consumption impacts link directly to business resilience and resource security.

WRAP estimates that each year the UK discards a similar weight of products - around 1.4 million tonnes. We landfill around a third of this waste and just over half is recycled. Only around 7% is re-used as whole product. This waste represents a significant environmental and business loss.

This section studies current usage and waste, suggests top-priority products for change and the associated business benefits. 

Jump to:
Chapter 1 >>
Which products to focus on?
What environmental changes can change deliver?
Business Benefits

Download the full report >>

Chapter 2

This chapter of the report covers:

The science of appliances: product design for longer life

Key Points:

  • New consumer data and design reviews show that product design changes can deliver multiple benefits, both commercial and environmental, which outweigh the costs of implementing longer product life.
  • Research observed consumers shopping around for the longest guarantee available at a given price.
  • Increasing the lifetime of lower-end products to match the current market average would save 150,000 tonnes of resources and almost 750,000 tonnes of CO2 eq per year.
  • Brand loyalty could be strengthened by delivering against unmet customer expectations on product lifetime and guarantees.
  • Longer guarantees and information on product reliability make it easier to assess value for money when buying new products, and can also inform decisions on whether to get appliances serviced or repaired.

This section studies key electrical products to determine potential design changes for longer lifetime, extended guarantee and increased customer satisfaction.

Jump to:
Chapter 2 >>
Why extend product lifetime?
Longer guarantees
What information do consumers want?
Willingness to pay
Designing for longer life and lower costs

Download the full report >>

Chapter 3

This chapter of the report covers:

Trading technology products for re-use

Key Points:

  • 38% of consumer electronic products go to landfill when no longer wanted. Only 7% are re-used. One quarter of products taken to household waste reception centres are still in working order.
  • More than six in ten consumers said they would welcome the opportunity to trade in older products. The UK market value for trading pre-owned electrical and electronic products could be worth up to £3 billion.
  • Selling quality used products to new customer segments could offer business growth, reduce the demand for raw materials and improve supply chain resilience.
  • Easy access to trade-in services and pre-owned products would benefit those customers who want the latest technology as well as consumers seeking a value-for-money purchase.

This section studies consumer demand for product trade in services and the related costs and challenges for business.

Jump to:
Chapter 3 >>
Market size
Focus on 2-3 year old products
Business opportunities

Download the full report >>

Chapter 4

This chapter of the report covers:

How to explore the opportunities

Key Points:

  • Developing specifications for longer-life appliances.
  • Demonstrating trade-in and other business models in exemplar companies.

This section studies key electrical products to determine potential design changes for longer lifetime, extended guarantee and increased customer satisfaction.

Jump to:
Chapter 4 >>
WRAP’s Pathfinder Group
Broadening the scope, increasing the impact

Download the full report >>

Where next?

The research undertaken in our Switched on to Value report leads directly into the work we do in Sustainable Electricals.

Electrical and Electronic Products Sustainability Action Plan (esap)

Underpinned by the Switched on to Value Report, the Electrical and Electronic Products Sustainability Action Plan (esap) focusses on five distinct themes to assist businesses in designing, making and selling products in a more sustainable way.

Theme one: Product Durability >>
Theme two: Minimising Product Returns >> 
Theme three: Consumer Behaviour >> 
Theme four: Resource Efficient Business Models >> 
Theme five: Re-use and Recycling >> 

REBus, an EU Life+ funded project

We are working with partners to develop REBus, an EU Life+ funded project: investigating the practical implementation of resource-efficient business models for a number of different industries, including electrical and electronic products.

More about REBus >>
Visit the REBus Website >>