Technology & Culture

Sustainability In Focus

Seven years after Planet of the Vapes started banging on about vape waste, companies are beginning to come on board and address the sustainability of their operations

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In 2015, Planet of the Vapes asked how should the vape community respond to concerns over the disposal of unwanted lithium-ion batteries? A handful of companies have come on board with environmentally friendly approaches, finally it seems as though the industry as a whole is on the cusp of addressing sustainability.

The problem is simple: single use plastics and lithium-ion batteries are poisoning the planet.

Sky News recently commented on the scale of the problem: “Binned disposable vapes are estimated to account for around 10 tonnes of valuable lithium being sent to landfill each year - enough to make batteries for 1,200 electric cars.”

The news organisation quoted Professor Mark Miodownik: “We can't be throwing these materials away, it really is madness in a climate emergency. It's in your laptop, it's in your mobile phone, it's in electric cars. This is the material that we are absolutely relying on to shift away from fossil fuels and address climate issues.”

Sky was part of a joint investigation with the Daily Telegraph and the Bloomberg-funded, anti-vape Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

While many vendors now have collection points for old 18000-series vape batteries, and there are local facilities at the likes of supermarkets and recycling centres, the survey said that disposables are now driving ecig market growth.

They found that more than half of all disposables are binned, either due to customers not knowing how to dispose of them wisely or the manufacturers not taking an active role in educating and processing.

Planet of the Vapes stopped hosting adverts for popular disposable brands due to the lack of manufacturer environmental responsibility.

Being packed full of energy, lithium-ion cells pose a huge risk if placed into the usual refuse chain - at any point they can start a fire or explode.

In 2015, Businesswaste’s Mark Hall told us: “It’s another challenge on top of the many challenges we already face. Users don’t know how to recycle their vaping waste, so it’s slipping through the net and ending up in general waste that’s destined for landfill, and that’s something we’re keen to avoid.”

The subject is finally being covered by retailer magazine Better Retailing. This month, it has given its readership a list of steps they can take in order to make their involvement in vape sales sustainable.

Their number one top tip was for vendors to work with responsible manufacturers who have already implemented a raft of common-sense solutions – such as Riot Labs.

Riot Labs recently launched Riot Bar, a carbon negative e-cigarette. Each device is made from bioplastics, which are 75% less carbon intensive and fully recyclable. All parts of the device can be recycled separately, including the battery, casing and mouthpiece.”

Then Better Retailing recommends encouraging customers to opt for closed pod and open systems over disposables and to buy bigger e-liquid bottles to cut back on plastic waste.

While Planet of the Vapes notes that the UK’s two trade bodies have made positive statements about sustainability, we have seen little to no real action from the overwhelming bulk of their respective memberships. Given the number of enemies that vape companies already have, adding the planet and vapers themselves to the list doesn’t seem wise – it’s time to act.


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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