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What A Waste

What happens to the batteries used by 2.8million UK vapers?

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Ecig advocates are quick to point out the health benefits of vaping instead of smoking. Some will highlight how vaping leads to less mess accumulating outside shops and pubs – but how should the community respond to concerns over the disposal of unwanted lithium-ion batteries?

The vast majority of vapers are still using Generation 1 cigalikes according to studies, dual-fuelling as they continue to smoke. These devices have fixed term lifespans and are seen as products to throw in the bin when they no longer function as desired – but so too are the larger high discharge 1800-series lithium-ion batteries. Questions are being asked whether the community could do more to be green.

A UK waste management company, Businesswaste, believes more can be done and that almost three million vapers are creating dangerous landfill due to inappropriate disposal of spent products. There’s little by way of guidance to vapers for the ethical disposal of their equipment, claims Businesswaste’s Mark Hall. “It’s another challenge on top of the many challenges we already face,” he said. “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.”

Although council household waste recycling centres accept plastics and batteries it seems that vapers are far more likely to simply place their unwanted gear in a rubbish bin. Many new vapers are currently replacing their cells given a typical lifespan of 2 years – batteries that contain high levels of pollutants and toxicants according to an article in Environmental Science & Technology.

Slightly misleading advice exists on sites like eBay, but the overall conclusion is still that the cells require recycling rather than simple disposal. It isn’t just vapers, in 2014 it was estimated that only 4-5% of all Li-ion batteries are disposed of in a green fashion.

Recycling companies would love to see more of them coming through the door. “Portable batteries contain 10% or more of cobalt, that's an amount that you do not find in nature as such. So you don't need to look further than the 'urban mine' to find very rich materials,” said Sybolt Brouwer, head of battery recycling at Umicore. Recycling would lead to more plentiful raw material for new cells and thereby cheaper products.

Maybe a solution is for bricks & mortar and online vendors to adopt an approach being taken by White Cloud in Florida. According to RecyclingPortal: “In contrast to UK`s problems with electronic cigarettes` waste, White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes has installed a battery-recycling program in the USA. This was made possible by partnership with Big Green Box, a federally approved recycling company based in Anaheim, California. Furthermore, White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes is one of the first to produce a completely disposable electronic delivery product using lightweight food grade BPA-free thermoplastics.”

With vendor increasingly looking for unique selling points to their business maybe a green approach could recycle sales.

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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