From 2017 to 2021, the UK vape sector grew 23.4% by £251m, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors. Many high streets are home to vaping shops and e-cigarettes are available in most, if not all, supermarkets. However, there have been many growing concerns about the long-term effects of vaping, especially with the recent invention of disposable vapes, and the environmental impact these may have.
Each year, around 138 million disposable vapes are sold, and over 3 million are thrown away each week. With this waste, 23 tonnes of lithium will be thrown away, and 1.4 million square feet of space in landfills will be filled with disposable vapes.
Here at REMONDIS, we may not be medical professionals, but we do know our stuff about electrical waste management. If you are looking to find out more about how to dispose of disposable vapes properly, we’re here to advise you.
Types Of Vapes Available
Since 2004, the vaping market has boomed with various types of vapes available, each requiring slightly different methods of disposal.
- Vape pens – these are common vapes that are either disposable or reusable depending on the brand.
- Pod vapes – made in two parts, with a rechargeable battery and a replaceable, refillable pod.
- Box mods – larger vapes with an external battery and a refillable tank.
- Disposable vapes – one of the most popular vapes currently on the market, available in different sizes and flavours. Once the liquid or battery runs out on a disposable vape, it is thrown away.
How To Dispose of A Reusable Vape
The easiest way to dispose of a reusable vape is by returning it to a shop that accepts old electricals for recycling. Many vape shops and electrical retailers will have a legal responsibility to take small WEEE, which includes reusable vapes. This will ensure that your old vape is disposed of responsibly, saving you time and effort.
Some vape retailers have vape disposal bins in their stores, where customers can return any brand of vape for free.
Recycling Vape Parts
As mentioned above, it is possible to recycle reusable vapes. Whilst it is a more sustainable method of vaping overall, if the vape or the battery becomes damaged, it does need to be disposed of.
Separate vape parts can be recycled in the following ways:
- The Batteries – rechargeable vape batteries can be recycled at any battery recycling point. These are found in most supermarkets. If your vape has built-in batteries, take it to a local household waste recycling centre (HWRC), to make sure that it is recycled with WEEE waste.
- The Pod/Tank – once the pod is removed, wash it thoroughly to get rid of any excess liquid. This can then be recycled with glass recycling. If the pod is made from plastic, be sure to check the pod for a recycling symbol and check whether it can be recycled with your household recycling or if it needs to be taken to a local HWRC.
- Coils – most coils can be removed from your vape. You can remove the coil and separate the cotton, then wash off the liquid residue. Recycle the coil with metals in your household recycling bin.
What Is In A Disposable Vape?
A disposable vape contains the same components and materials as a reusable vape, however often the battery and tank are smaller, the exterior is a cheaper plastic material and the parts aren’t removable. They contain:
- Plastic exterior,
- Lithium-ion battery,
- Small tank for liquid,
- Cotton wick,
- Metal coil.
How To Dispose of Disposable Vapes
As disposable vapes are single-use. Once they are empty they must be disposed of responsibly to minimise the impact on the environment. Therefore, they must never be thrown away with general waste. If a disposable vape reaches a landfill, the battery acid can leak, along with the nicotine and chemicals from the plastic, into the environment. What’s more, the lithium-ion battery is a fire risk.
Lithium-ion batteries are highly flammable and have been known for causing dangerous fires on landfill sites and in bin lorries.
The number of bin lorry fires has increased by 62% in the last two years. In fact, in 2022, fire crews were called to 125 fires, up from the 77 reported in 2020. Concerningly, house fires sparked by vapes have also doubled in two years from 59 to 123 in 2022.
Can Disposable Vapes Be Recycled?
Disposable vapes are recyclable. They need to be put in a vape disposal bin, returned to an electrical retailer or recycled with WEEE items at your local HWRC. They will then be transported to a recycling facility, where the vapes will be dismantled and separated into their separate components.
These components will then be thoroughly checked, sorted, cleaned and recycled. The only element of a disposable vape currently not recyclable is the cotton wick because it is heavily contaminated and often burnt.
Where to Dispose of Disposable Vapes Responsibly
The three core locations for responsibly disposing of disposable vapes are:
- Vape disposable bins, often located in vape shops,
- Electrical and electronic retailers over 400 Sq.M, who are required to take back small WEEE items for free,
- Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) will usually accept disposable vapes in their WEEE bins.
How Can Businesses Dispose of Disposable Vapes Properly?
If you are a business looking to deal with disposable vape waste properly, you must arrange a commercial waste collection. Whether you accept customer returns, have employees who vape, or have other reasons to dispose of vapes, ensuring removal by a licensed waste carrier is vital to minimise your environmental impact and ensure that you are following the law when it comes to disposing of vapes. The easiest way to do this is by having a WEEE bin and collection.
Here at REMONDIS, we can offer fully compliant and reliable collections for all types of electrical waste (WEEE), and arrange a waste collection service to fit in with your needs, requirements and schedule.