Vaping News

Life in the Old Disposable Dog Yet

A new study finds that vast amounts of waste are being caused by single-use e-cigarette batteries, but they are able to be used for hundreds of charging cycles

Share on:
Disposable vapes use the same battery technology as found in regular vape devices. The lithium-ion cells in almost all single-use products end up being discarded in the disposable. New research from University College London and the University of Oxford, supported by The Faraday Institution, has shown that extracted batteries “can continue to perform at high capacity for hundreds of cycles”.

The full report, published in Joule, highlights a growing environmental threat from disposables because they are not designed to be recharged.

The authors say: “Disposable e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity in the UK since 2021, with a survey finding an 18-fold increase recorded between January 2021 and April 2022. Within 15 months, their popularity among 18-year-old vapers rose from 0.4% to 54.8%.

“This has led to new waste problems, with about 1.3 million of the devices thrown away in the nation each week. As a result, about 10,000 kilograms of lithium from e-cigarette batteries wind up in UK landfills each year, threatening nearby waterways with toxic nickel, cobalt, and organic solvents.”

The research team say they “had a hunch” that the batteries used in disposable e-cigarettes were rechargeable, but “were not aware of any previous studies that had assessed how long the lithium-ion batteries in these products are capable of lasting.”

Although not research, PhD student Maksym Sheremet and his organisation Drone Lab told how they began collecting discarded single-use vapes in 2022 in order to extract the lithium-ion cells and use them to power drones to aid Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Hamish Reid, the UCL study’s first author said: "Popularity in single-use vapes has exploded in recent years. Despite being sold as disposable, our research has shown that the lithium-ion batteries stored within them are capable of being charged and discharged over 450 times. This work highlights the huge waste of limited resources caused by disposable vapes."

The researchers at UCL and the University of Oxford harvested batteries from disposable e-cigarettes then examined them with microscopes and used X-ray tomography to map the internal structure and understand the constituent materials.

Repeatedly charging and discharging the batteries, they determined how well the batteries maintained their electrochemical performance over time.

Senior author Professor Paul Shearing added: “The surprise for us were the results that pointed toward just how long these batteries could potentially cycle. If you use a low charge and discharge rate, you can see that for over 700 cycles, you still have more than 90% capacity retention. That’s a pretty good battery, actually. And these are just being discarded. They’re being chucked on the side of the road.

“As a bare minimum, the public needs to be aware of the types of batteries going into these devices and the need to properly dispose of them. Manufacturers should provide the ecosystem for reuse and recycling of e-cigarette batteries, and also should be moving towards rechargeable devices as the default.”

The research team is now researching selective ways to recycle the li-ion batteries, allowing individual components to be recovered without cross-contamination.


Photo Credit:

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
View Articles

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.

Join the discussion

Vaping News

Harm Reduction For The Rich

The United Kingdom risks becoming a harm reduction country only for the wealthy, according to Michael Landl of the World Vapers’ Alliance

Vaping News

Sacrificing Health For 2p Cut

Tory Government alienates vaping voters with its mission to cut tax by an unaffordable 2p to attract voters by placing a tax on vape products in the forthcoming budget

Vaping News

Scotland Announces Single-Use Vape Action

A ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes in Scotland is due to come into effect on 1 April 2025, under proposed legislation published today

Vaping News

Industry Licensing Scheme Proposed

A vape industry licensing scheme will generate £50m+ per year to combat underage and illicit vape sales according to industry experts