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Thursday 26th January 2023

Vaping is on the rise. In the UK alone, we buy half a billion vapes a year and bin a massive 3 million of them every week; enough to cover 22 football pitches [Source: material Focus]. Touted as a ‘cooler’ and more affordable alternative to cigarettes, the prevalence of vapes is inescapable.

There are three major kinds of electronic cigarettes; rechargeable devices with a single-use chamber, single-use and rechargeables. The single-use vapes contain approximately 600 ‘puffs’ and they are easily available from supermarkets, specialist vape stores and corner shops alike.

Image: Recorra

The devices are normally composed of a plastic or metal outer casing, and inside a lithium battery, heating coil, mixed plastic contraptions and a nicotine liquid-soaked sponge.

Why should you care as a business?

There is an estimated 4.3million vape users in the UK, of which, 18-24 year olds make up the largest demographic [source: Action on Smoking and Health (Ash)]. So, as this generation enter the workforce in a substantial way, so do the vapes they smoke. This is particularly important as currently many of the disposable vapes end up in general waste, or worst, in mixed recycling bins at work. This is because most people don’t know what to do with them or that they contain dangerous batteries.

This puts your workplace and staff at risk of electrical fires which can happen if batteries are crushed in general waste. “Fires caused by carelessly discarded batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services,” said Jacob Hayler, Environmental Services Association’s executive director. What’s more, if you do not have battery recycling, you could be breaking the law. It is a legal requirement to properly dispose of batteries. Eliminate the risk and sign up to our battery and vape recycling now!

The wider complications

All vapes contain lithium batteries. Most of which is sourced from the ‘Lithium triangle’ of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The metal’s extraction has major environmental and social impacts. Not only does the process of extracting lithium require immense amounts of water, but the process is linked to respiratory disease, conflict and the dispossession of indigenous land.

Image: Edward Burtynsky

10 tonnes of lithium is ‘lost’ yearly when disposable vapes are simply thrown away, this is a precious resource and should be treated as such. Lithium is also a vital component in electric car batteries. Recycling vapes would save precious resources like this from being lost forever.

Not only are we disregarding precious and rare metals, but many vapes are littered and end up leaching into nature. Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society, comments that littered vapes are “a huge concern for us as the plastic and chemicals in disposable vapes could have really harmful effects on marine life.”

Why disposable vapes should be recycled

  • They're a growing source of plastic pollution on our streets, beaches and in our parks, with two thrown away every second in the UK.

  • They contain precious lithium batteries - vital in the climate battle - which are also being thrown away, with campaigners saying the lithium wasted each year could be used in batteries which could power 1200 electric cars.

  • With the items often ending up in general landfill, there are growing reports of the batteries causing dangerous fires when crushed in with other waste when you can see here 
  • When littered, the products which contain plastics, small electronics, nicotine and lithium can harm animals and are hazardous to wildlife and the environment on land and sea.

But, how do you recycle vapes?

Good news. We’ve just launched a vape recycling service! All you have to do is simply deposit your building’s vapes in a pre-paid box, which we will then collect and dismantle to separate the battery from the plastic casing and recycle them accordingly.

First, you need to see if your office recycles vapes, if they don't, it's worth discussing with the office manager about the option.

Alternatively, you can collect old vapes at home and deposit them in an ITAD recycling point near you. Here’s a useful tool for finding such places in the UK.

If you are looking to implement vape or battery recycle enquire here.

Image: Michael Fallon

Aneira Pontin

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