The vaping industry is working to address its environmental responsibilities as focus on sustainability issues gathers momentum.
The UKVIA and our members are in discussions with a number of waste companies to create a recycling solution that is fit for purpose for the vaping sector.
“The industry recognises its responsibilities to the environment but the recycling of vapes is not straightforward as it needs collaboration between adult vapers, retailers, manufacturers, the regulators and companies in the waste management sector, which are involved in the current Producer Compliance Schemes under the WEEE regulations.”
Dunne added: “Up to now there has been genuine confusion amongst the vaping sector about their responsibilities under the WEEE directive. Earlier this year the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment alluded to uncertainty around whether regulations covered the type of batteries found in vapes and also questioned the recycling infrastructure in place to support the sector to be more sustainable.
“This is why we are working hard as an industry to find a waste management solution that minimises the impact of vapes on the environment, particularly when it comes to single use disposables, so they are seen for what they do best – helping adult smokers kick their habits and save the lives of millions as well as millions of pounds for the health service.
Vaping Industry Develops ‘Greenprint’ for Environmental Action
The Greenprint for Sustainable Vaping aims to mobilise environmental action to support a sustainable vaping sector. It will include recommendations on creating a national recycling and waste treatment capability fit for the vaping industry, driving new vape innovations that make products easier to recycle and reuse, and supporting greater retailer and consumer participation in the recycling and reuse of vape products.
UKVIA Director General John Dunne said: “The clear message from this summit is that there is more education needed both from consumer and industry perspectives.
“It is important for regulators, the industry and those dealing with the recycling and environmental aspects of this issue, to all come together to seek a common solution because this problem is not going to go away without action.
“We found a great deal of common ground at this summit and the focus now must be on ensuring that all importers, manufacturers and retailers of vaping products step up to the plate and ensure they are compliant with all environmental obligations. If they don’t, they are committing a criminal offence.”
Disposable e-cigarettes, or “vapes,” have grown massively in popularity over the last four years, with over 14 million bought every month in the UK according to environmental non-profit, Material Focus.
Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus said: “Vaping is a growing phenomenon in the UK and over 50% of all single-use vapes sold are needlessly being thrown away. This means that every week 1 million vapes are not recycled. We need to take urgent action now and ensure that they get recycled. You can find your nearest recycling point by visiting our recycle your electricals website.”
You can also dispose of your recyclable vape at your nearest vape shop. New packaging will state they are recyclable and not disposable.
What if I throw my vape in the bin?
The plastic tube will never biodegrade, it will only break down into microplastics, meaning your vape is essentially a single-use plastic. The lithium battery, however, is an even bigger environmental concern.
In the UK, vapes are classed as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), meaning they have to be disposed of at a household recycling centre or the shop where you bought them.
Lithium batteries have to be recycled in a specific way which many do not bother to do. According to the UN, the world generates 50 million tonnes of e-waste each year. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that lithium batteries from the UK alone account for 10 tonnes per year, just enough lithium for 1,200 electric vehicle batteries.
This figure does not include the lithium batteries found in laptops, mobile phones and other electronic products.
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The rebranding of disposable to recyclable comes as a welcome change, allowing people to continue using recyclable vapes and e-cigarettes.