Over the last 12 months, the popularity and usage of Disposable Vapes has seen a sharp increase, with many people opting to use these devices as their nicotine delivery system over more traditional refillable vaping devices.
With the popularity of these devices growing, more manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and started creating their own ranges of Disposable Vapes, and the market is somewhat flooded with options of brands and flavours.
But a problem arose and continues to grow with the high number of people using these devices in the UK, and that’s the problem they are causing to the environment.
Even though they’re made out of plastic, they’re not recyclable due to the fact they contain a lithium-ion battery. And instead, millions are being put into landfill every single month, and the problems are starting to build enough that a possible intervention from the government is on the horizon. Let’s look at this in more detail.
The damage Disposables are doing to the environment
As I stated above, even though Disposable Vapes are made of plastic, and effectively single use plastic as well, they cannot be recycled like other plastics due to the fact they contain a small lithium-ion battery. And these batteries if put under pressure could lead to combustion causing risk to anything/anyone nearby.
There’s been footage released in past times of these vapes finding their way into recycling plants and causing small explosions on the processing belts after they’ve been introduced to a pressurised environment, almost causing harm to a worker who was nearby. So where do they go when they’re disposed of?
It’s estimated that FOURTEEN MILLION Disposable Vapes are now bought in the UK each week, and a minimum of 1.3 million are entering landfill every single month in the UK. This is because they’re simply put in general waste bins which then goes to landfill where it can take over 200 years for a single use plastic to eventually decompose, and when this volume of plastic is being added every month, it’s going to take a long time to fully rid the earth of them, the same earth that is already in bad shape anyway!
A major supermarket bans sales of Single use Vaping Devices
If you haven’t seen my article I published at the beginning of this year, you may not know that Waitrose made the decision to ban the sale of all single use vaping products in their Waitrose and Little Waitrose stores effective immediately.
They previously only stocked the 10Motives brand of Cigalike e-cigarettes, and admitted they had not succumbed to joining all the other major Supermarket chains by selling
“The colourful vapes that are becoming increasingly popular with young people”
and said that their move to ban single use vaping devices is a positive step forward to reducing environmental harm caused by them.
This was met with wide spread praise, and I also commended them in my article that focused solely on this subject, but it was also met with scepticism by environmentalists and activists who commended Waitrose for stopping the sale of single use vaping devices, but they still continue to sell Cigarettes at all their stores, which are not only bad for the environment but also considerably more harmful to people who opt to continue smoking. They do make a valid point I guess…
PhD Student highlights the problems with Disposable Vape waste on Twitter
A few days after Waitrose made the announcement of their banning of single use vaping devices, a PhD Student from Scotland called Laura Young posted a video on her Twitter which in turn made national news due to it going viral.
The video featured Laura (who’s Twitter handle is @LessWasteLaura) going out for her daily dog walk, and on this walk she collected 55 discarded Disposable Vapes on her route. The route she took was approximately 4 miles in distance, and she did some maths in the follow up posts where she worked out what she collected equated to finding one discarded vape every minute of her walk. Seeing this video and the numbers involved really is eye opening to the problems that these devices are causing to the environment.
Laura has continued to document her bids to get Disposable Vapes banned, and even recorded herself taking discarded Disposables to a Recycling plant where the staff had no idea where they should go, suggesting general waste, small electricals or in the battery refuse area. So even the staff who are trained at recycling centres aren’t sure on the protocol involving them, so is it time that some intervention is made on this subject?
Disposable Vapes to feature in the next WEEE Review
If you didn’t know, WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment and is the regulations that surround the disposing of anything Electrical. This covers anything from small and large household goods, IT equipment, lighting, toys and the list goes on and on covering pretty much everything electrical.
Anything on this list can be correctly disposed of at local refuse sites, and there is plenty of guidance and advice on what to do with them, either online, at the site or by asking the staff. So why aren’t Disposables included as part of the WEEE Policy? Well, that may be about to change!
Recently, The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA for short) published its response to its own consultation on commonly littered single use plastics in England which ran from November 2021 to February 2022. Within the response however, Defra did note it had not taken into consideration nor explored the issues surrounding the amount of waste caused by Disposable Vapes and how they are disposed of.
Defra then moved to say that it is currently reviewing the current producer responsibility systems for WEEE and Battery disposal and plans to publish the long awaited, and also much delayed consultations later this year and they WILL be looking at Disposable Vapes specifically.
So they will be moving responsibility over to the manufacturers of these Disposable Vape devices to give their customers clear guidance and indication on what to do to correctly recycle these so they longer continue to fill landfills, is this the right thing to do? The UKVIA have had their say…
UKVIA speak out on this matter
The United Kingdom Vaping Industry Association, or UKVIA as it’s known for short, are a hugely respected association with the Vaping industry for their continual support, development and promotion of the billion pound industry that we all know and care for. They always speak up on matters that need addressing, and this matter we’re discussing here is not one for them to ignore, and they haven’t.
Director General John Dunne has spoken out regarding this subject, acknowledging that the vaping industry has recognised its responsibilities to the environment, however the recycling of Disposable Vapes was not a “straight forward” as it seems, and would need huge collaboration from adult vapers, manufacturers, retailers, regulators and waste management companies alike.
Mr Dunne added:
“Up to now there has been genuine confusion amongst the vaping sector about their responsibilities under the WEEE directive.
“This is why we are working hard as an industry to find a waste management solution that minimises the impact of vapes on the environment, particularly when it comes to single-use disposables, so they are seen for what they do best – helping adult smokers kick their habits and save the lives of millions, as well as millions of pounds for the health service.
Could this be the beginning of the end for Disposables as we know them?
I now reach the conclusion of this article and will give my thoughts on the current state of affairs.
You’ll know if you read any of my previous work on Disposable Vapes, I’m not the biggest fan of them. Not only are they causing huge problems to the environment, they’re also causing a plethora of negative press and media publications being printed due to them being so popular amongst youths in England (although the numbers are going down, it’s still damaging to the vaping industry’s reputation) so a potential regulation on them probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.
I wouldn’t want to see them get completely banned, as at the end of the day, they are a tool that many have used to quit smoking cigarettes which is the best thing to see, but I do think it’s time that the Vaping industry does play a part alongside the others mentioned above to help reduced the sheer volume of single use plastic being put in landfill every month, and start making a more positive impact to the future of our planet.