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What A Waste

People are discussing the environmental impact of disposable vapes and talking about how businesses should address the issue of sustainability if vaping is to survive

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People are discussing the environmental impact of disposable vapes and talking about how businesses should address the issue of sustainability if vaping is to survive. With a combination of valuable metals and single-use plastics, waste professionals highlight the need to reclaim resources and take care with irresponsible dumping. Research and Markets has even published a new review of current global recycling programs.

Products made by market leaders Elf Bar and Geek Bar have swamped countries around the world, now contributing to 60% of all sales in the throwaway market sector. Their rise to dominance is exemplified by Elf Bar attracting nearly one billion views on the TikTok social media platform.

It is estimated by recycling experts that half a billion disposables are bought in the UK each year – with a staggering 3 million casually thrown into bins each week. The products are classified as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) by UK law. This means they need sent for separate recycling.

By throwing them away rather than processing them for recycling, it’s estimated that we are losing £370 million from the economy each year.

The Research and Markets report states: “Vape products are e-waste since they contain lithium-ion batteries and a heating element. Disposing of e-waste is a considerable challenge due to the many different types of chemicals and materials in these products. Electronic vape products present at least two problems, as their vaporisers contain a circuit board, which can contain plastics and heavy metals and they also use lithium-ion batteries.”

In addition to the excellent progress made by Riot with its net zero disposables, Research and Markets says that big tobacco firms are also making strides to be better:

  • PMI established two hubs in Europe and Asia that inspect, process, and separate materials from electronic devices for recycling. Effective recycling rate of IQOS devices increased from 30% in 2018 to 40% in 2020. Target of recycling is 80% by 2025.
  • BAT replaces plastic elements of vapor products with pulp-based alternatives. The share of recycled waste is 79-80% in 2019-2021. Target of recycling is 95% by 2025.
  • JTI launched a return scheme of used devices through the recycling boxes at shops. In 2020 67% of produced waste were recycled. Target of waste reduction is 20% by 2030.
  • Imperial Brands launched take-back recycling schemes for used vaping devices and pods. Recycling rate decreased from 69% in 2017 to 61% in 2021. Target of recycling rate is 75% by 2030.
  • Other vape companies launch their own recycling programs by return schemes (DotMod, Shanlaan, Dovpo, Vinn). Innokin works on battery utilization programs.
  • Recycling companies (Gaiaca and TerraCycle) cooperate with vape manufacturers to provide services for collecting and recycling e-waste. Some vape producers cooperate directly with recycling companies: RELX cooperates with China Siyan Foundation for Poverty Alleviation.
  • The Bowman company offers the refill stations to fill empty vapor bottles/pods. It will help to reduce plastic usage for vapor bottles production in future.

Waste Professionals magazine says more needs to be done: “The schemes currently proposed are limited in scope to materials commonly recycled at the kerbside currently (plastic, steel and aluminium cans, and glass bottles), but now is the right time to explore more ambitious avenues, given the significant resource and environmental benefits that could be gained from a small WEEE collection.

“As our consumption of electronic devices increases, so too will the need for good outlets for WEEE recycling, especially as demand increases for the finite resources used in their production. If we are serious about moving towards circularity, we must do more to empower the public to recycle their electronic appliances.”


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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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