UK central government’s approach to refurbished tech and trade ins: the data

The UK central government is by far the public sector’s biggest spender, accounting for £9.2 billion in 2022. For context, that’s more than the next three heaviest-spending sectors combined – education (£3.2bn), local government (£2.9bn) and healthcare (£2.8bn).


That spending is spread across 24 central departments (as well as many more sub-departments), with each having a significant degree of autonomy in how they manage their resources. The government has published stated aims around sustainability and procuring sustainable products and services in recent years, so we wanted to know how much each department is spending on refurbished products, and how much of their old or unused tech estate was being traded in to be given a second life.

To find out, we sent Freedom of Information requests to the 24 central government departments – and here is the data for trade-ins.

Table 1 V2

As shown, in the period 2022/23, the central government departments recouped a total of:

· £38,661.88 by trading in mobile phones;

· £567,820.30 by trading in laptops;

· £31,413,61 by trading in desktops;

· £1,645,762 by trading in tablets.

Here is the data for government departments buying refurbished tech.

Table 2 V3

So, in the financial year 2022/23, the total number of all refurbished devices purchased across all 24 government departments was:

· 233 laptops, procured by the Ministry of Justice.

Government targets

As the government looks to help build a more circular economy, we would expect these numbers to grow, going forward.

There is a government target, provided by Defra, for refurbished/remanufactured phones and ICT in the Greening Government ICT Strategy. Within this strategy, business rule 2 includes the expectation of a yearly increase in ICT kit purchased or leased that is manufactured or refurbished.

The report also states that Defra will report an annual percentage improvement in the procurement of remanufactured/refurbished ICT promoting multiple usage lifecycles.

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