If you have a drawer or box in your home that’s brimming with cables for gadgets you no longer use, you’re certainly not the only one. Just under a third of Brits admit to having a stash of no-longer-needed flexes and connectors that they don’t know what to do with. And as technology advances and gadgets get replaced, once-common ports and plugs fall out of use so this is a problem that’s not likely to go away any time soon.
But streamlining your cable collection isn’t always straightforward. What if you accidentally throw something out only to discover that you need it a few weeks or months down the line? If this strikes a chord, it’s time to take stock. Use our guide to work out which cables to keep and which you can probably safely get rid of.
Don’t forget that anything with a plug can be recycled. Some councils accept adaptors and cables in kerbside recycling and even if yours doesn’t, local recycling centres will often take them alongside small devices. Recycle Your Electricals can help you find a local recycling point for cables and leads.Related Story7 ways to improve Netflix
Old mobile chargers routinely outlive the phones they arrive with, and can’t always be used when you upgrade to a new handset. Even if the connector of an old cable does fit your new phone, you should avoid mixing and matching as the cable may supply the wrong voltage. When a gadget reaches the end of its useful life, you’re much better off disposing of both it and its charger through an electrical recycling scheme.
There are exceptions. If you have several iPhones or iPads released since 2012, hang on to your Lightning cables. Before 2012, iPods and early iPhones used cables with a wider connector (called a 30-pin dock connector), for which no new products are being made. So unless you’re still using them, these can be recycled.
These days, non-Apple smartphones and tablets often come with a USB-C cable, which has a connector shaped like a 8.5 x 2.5mm grain of rice, or one of these connectors at each end. Keep these, as they’re becoming common on laptops, too, both for charging and connecting devices like keyboards and mice. There is a move across Europe (backed by European Commission legislation) to establish USB-C as the default charging cable for smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld games consoles, and this is likely to affect devices on sale in the UK, too.Getty Images
Lightning cables (left) and USB-C (right) are both still used by leading smartphone manufacturers. USB-C could soon be the common charging solution for Europe.Related StoryShare photos and files wirelessly
Many gadgets such as printers, e-readers and hard drives connect to a computer using a version of USB, so it’s worth hanging on to a handful of USB cables that redate USB-C.
To avoid amassing more cables when it’s time to upgrade your keyboard, mouse or speakers, consider cable-free Bluetooth devices. When buying a printer, look for one that connects to your wireless network to further reduce cable clutter. Don’t get rid of all of your Ethernet network cables, though: if you have a problem with your Wi-Fi.Getty Images
Older USB-B cables (left) can still be handy when connecting to printers, and Ethernet cables (right) are useful for accessing and fixing wireless routers.
Televisions, DVD players, set top boxes, streaming sticks and new computers have will all have standard HDMI sockets – usually full-size Standard HDMI, with the same plug at either end, so you can easily mix and match between devices. Hang on to as many as you can – and in particular any marked High Speed, as these can be used with higher definition ‘4K’ (or better) TVs.
A raft of older cables, including VGA, Scart, S-Video and Composite video, can all be recycled unless they’re still plugged in and in use, as they’re less common on newer products.
Old-school 3.5mm audio leads are useful for connecting to some older car radios, but with most new phones lacking headphone sockets, they’re not worth hanging onto ‘just in case’. Neither are knotted-up plug-in headphones stuffed in the back of a drawer as future phones are almost certain to feature Bluetooth or other wireless technologies.Getty Images
Keep hold of high speed HDMI cables (left) so you can add various streaming options to multi-input TVs, but you’re probably safe recycling any VGA cables (right) that you’re not actively using.