Vaping was first introduced in China around 2003 as the holy grail for nicotine addicts, as a means of getting their nicotine fix without the additional health risks of smoking (tobacco) cigarettes. In 2005, it was launched in the UK, particularly amongst young people to simulate the effect of smoking tobacco by heating flavoured liquids.
Today in 2023, there is growing concern about the safety of vaping (reusable and disposable) and the potential dangers to health. So much so, that the current Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, stated that he was unhappy about the way e-cigarettes are “marketed to kids, presenting them like sweets” by creating ‘child friendly” flavours and packaging. The Financial Times (12 October 2023), reported that the UK Government is now launching new legislation restricting the sale of vapes to children and young people.
You are probably wondering why a rubbish clearance service in Brighton is interested in the Government’s policy on vaping. The reason is that the unknown health aspects of inhaling hot vapor is as yet unknown, but we do know that disposable vapes pose a clear and present danger to the environment, humans and wildlife.
The most glaringly obvious issue is that disposable vapes are designed to be used only once and then discarded, which is the antithesis of sustainable. Secondly, they contain hazardous elements such as lithium batteries which are extremely flammable and can cause fires in landfills, and other chemicals (and nicotine) that can leak into the environment.
The problems at a glance…
• Single use plastics require intensive manufacture processes and precious resources which could take centuries to decompose.
• No legislation / provision for recycling is in place. The complicated nature of the manufacture process makes extraction tricky.
• Chemicals (including nicotine) are contained in the disposable cartridge which can leak into the ground if not disposed of safely.
• Lithium batteries are notoriously hazardous and are known to cause fires in landfills, therefore they must be disposed of correctly to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals.
In the UK, we purchase around 7 million disposable vapes and bin around 1.3 million per week. To give you an idea of the scale of this impending environmental disaster, every year the number of discarded e-cigarettes would fill 22 football pitches (Greenpeace, July 2023).
Let’s be clear, this is not a localised UK problem, it is a global issue that needs to be tackled where ever disposable vapes are available. An article in Australian issue of The Guardian newspaper, “Environmental Groups call for urgent action on hazardous waste from e-cigarettes” reports there was a 50% increase in the number of Australians using e-cigarettes between 2016 and 2019, and calls for clarity from authorities on how to deal with the increasing amounts of hazardous waste generated by disposable single-use e-cigarettes.
According to Greenpeace, disposable vapes cannot be (easily) recycled due to the way the elements are combined to make the unit. The lithium battery, copper and plastic are fused together and cannot easily be extracted, making recycling extremely difficult and expensive. There is also the additional issue, that as a single-use product, the sheer scale of the waste produced is a logistical nightmare.
As a solution, Greenpeace has started a petition requesting the Government to ban the manufacture of all disposable vapes.
Adrian Westwood, founder of G&S Clearance Group and vocal advocate for sustainable waste management practices, explains, “As a registered waste disposal service, G&S Clearance has agreements with authorised recycling plants for the safe storage and recycling of lithium batteries. However, at present, there are no regulations or processes in place pertaining to the safe disposal (or recycling) of single-use vapes. Clearly, legislation and investment are required in order to tackle this very real environmental issue.”
If you would like advice on how to dispose of lithium batteries or other hazardous materials, G&S Clearance can advice you of the best specialist service or government agency to contact. For advice about commercial or residential waste management services in Brighton and Hove contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.