Vaping seems to be a common sight nowadays with the use of disposable vapes becoming a preferred choice. In fact, the latest figures released by the Government show that the use of disposable vapes has increased dramatically within the last two years. According to several national studies of adults in England, the use of disposable vaping products has increased from just 2.2% in 2021 to a whopping 15.2% in 2022 (source: UK Gov).
Concerningly, e-cigarettes are increasing in popularity amongst teenagers too. Data from the ASH-Youth 2022 survey of 11 to 18 year olds in England reveals that the use of vapes amongst young people has more than doubled, rising from 4% in 2021 to 8.6% in 2022. Use of disposable vaping products has increased substantially amongst this group too, with 52.8% of current vapers using disposable products in 2022 compared to 7.8% in 2021 (source: UK Gov).
It’s clear that action needs to be taken to ensure these products are disposed of safely, preventing hazardous materials causing environmental damage, but can disposable vapes be recycled? The answer? Quite simply, yes!
How is the industry tackling vape recycling?
In April 2023, the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) published an environmental action plan for the sector to tackle the problem head on. Some of the key takeaways from the action plan include:
- Setting up recycling collection facilities at the point of use
- Vape and waste industries need to work closely to find a viable, long-term solution for recycling
- Waste industry to design “simple and easy-to-use” vape recycling containers
- Packaging to highlight how disposable vapes are recyclable
- All vape businesses should become compliant with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013, Producer Responsibility Obligations Regulations 2007, and Packaging Waste Regulations 2023
Why is it necessary to recycle disposable vapes?
It may surprise many that disposable vapes are in fact recyclable so it’s important that we promote this message. In the UK, 1.3 million disposable vapes are thrown into general waste every week, that’s about the same as 22 football pitches every year. The scale of the problem is evident so now is the time to change attitudes towards the disposal of vapes. Here are some quick facts for you about why it is so important to recycle disposable vapes:
- Disposable vapes are classed as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) which is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. We understand that disposable vapes are just a tiny percentage of the electronic items that are disposed of every year but if we can make a difference now, we have the potential to contribute to the reduction of e-waste in the future
- Disposable vapes house several materials including plastic, a battery and chemicals including propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavourings, and nicotine. All of these materials will cause harm to the environment if they end up in general waste. Plastic will turn into microplastics which have the potential to pollute our food and water supplies as well as cause harm to sea life. The lithium-ion batteries and heating element have chemicals in them that can contaminate water and the e-liquid is classed as hazardous waste which can cause fires when not disposed of safely. In fact, a recent article by The Guardian revealed that single-use vapes have sparked a huge surge in fires at UK waste plants in recent months (source: The Guardian).
- The metal found in disposable vapes is incredibly valuable. Research by Sky News and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that disposable vapes account for 10 tonnes of lithium being sent to landfill or waste incinerators each year. This is enough metal to make batteries for 1,200 electric cars (source: Sky News). All the more reason to recycle disposable vapes!
What is DCW doing to recycle disposable vapes?
It’s imperative that the vaping industry and the waste industry work together to tackle this growing waste stream and encourage the responsible recycling of disposable vapes.
Earlier this year, we launched a disposable vape recycling service in a bid to divert potentially hazardous waste away from landfill in the South West. Fulfilling a goal in the UKVIA’s action plan, we offer customers simple and easy to use containers, providing a fuss-free recycling solution.
DCW can now provide businesses with a 23-litre caddy which includes vermiculite to collect the lithium-ion batteries and the vape itself safely. Our experienced and qualified teams then collect the caddy and the disposable vapes for forward processing. Plastic that may contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is sent to DCW partners to be incinerated. The ash produced from this process will then be used in the building industry, ensuring that nothing ends up in landfill.
Many of our customers have embraced our new disposable vape recycling service and in response to the UKVIA’s action plan, we will strive to encourage all types of businesses across the South West to adopt this recycling service so that it is accessible to vape users across the region, not just at vape shops.