Disposable E-Cigarettes: The Environmental Impact
There’s no doubt that the vaping revolution has had a huge impact around the world. Many experts and organisations hail the technology as a safer alternative to smoking. Millions of people have ditched the cigarettes in favour of these electronic devices that are now commonplace in city streets around the world. The reduced impact on our health is clear. For starters, they don’t produce tar and carbon monoxide which are two of the most harmful products in tobacco smoke.
However, what about the health of the environment?
Why Disposable E-Cigarettes Impact The Environment
As the leading provider of 18650 batteries in the United Kingdom, many of our customers purchase vape-compatible products from our store. Rechargeable vapes are popular and provide users with increased longevity due to the interchangeability of their components. Unlike single-use products, they’re a great way of enjoying the pastime as well as doing your bit for helping the environment. However, the increased number of disposable vaping devices flooding the market is cause for concern, primarily for the difficulty in recycling them and the impact they’re having on the market. Let us explain.
Market research by Opinium for Material Focus, a non-profit recycling organisation suggests that 1.3 million single-use vapes are thrown away every week, enough to cover 22 football pitches every single year. That’s an awful lot of waste.
Unfortunately, littering remains the blight of mankind. How often do we see cigarette butts, chewing gum and takeaway containers lying littering the streets? Now spent disposable e-cigarettes and replaceable nicotine-filled plastic pods are being added to the equation. Will we ever learn?
Alongside making their way into our streets, parks and countryside, they’re also entering landfill. Many of these devices can leak heavy metals, battery acid and nicotine into the environment, posing a big risk to plants and animals. They can also combust to cause some highly dangerous situations at these sites, refuse vehicles and material recovery facilities. This is because the acidic elements and sharp components within the items can often result in a puncture, explosion or fire. Clearly, the combination of various chemical substances entering the soil, components littering habitats as well as the fact that plastic items can take upto 1000 years to decompose (yep, you read that right!) means that it’s quite concerning for the environment.
In July 2022, Sky News estimated that disposable vape users in the UK are throwing away around two disposable vapes every second - yep, you read that correctly. These products aren't being recycled either, they're being thrown away - which means tonnes of lithium metal is ending up in landfill every single year.
How do disposable and rechargeable e-cigarettes compare?
The average disposable vape pen can provide up to 300 puffs before running out - that’s roughly around a pack of 20 cigarettes. That doesn’t go far does it? That could be three-to-five days for your average smoker or as little as one-to-two for anyone who enjoys a smoke multiple times per hour.
There is, however, much more longevity with rechargeable vaping devices. The average device will last 6-7 months before you need to replace all of its components - and a good ol' Fogstar battery will do you a decent number of cycles too!
Of course, we’re not saying that rechargeable devices don’t impact the environment as well. Your battery will need to be responsibly recycled just as well as their disposable cousins. However, with a bit of care, their substantial longevity in comparison is certainly more beneficial for the world we live in.
How to dispose of vapes, cartridges and components responsibly
Whether you’re using a disposable, fully-integrated vape pen or a rechargeable device, when finished it’s important to dispose of these items carefully and responsibly. As a responsible supplier of 18650 batteries, the team at Fogstar feel obliged to provide our customers with the right information on how to dispose of their used batteries correctly. As it goes, we’ve already done a blog about how to safely dispose of batteries here.
Okay, but what about the rest of the device? Well, whether you’re disposing of the whole device or just a small component you’ve changed, it’s your responsibility as a consumer to dispose of that item safely. The good news is that the majority of vaping components can actually be recycled - manufacturers often just don’t make it clear how! In an interview with Reuters, Yogi Hale Hendlin from the Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education at the University of California pointed out that, “most of these devices don’t include instructions on how to dispose of the products. The ones that do often include a convoluted process, and it gets incinerated in the end, which isn’t ecological at all”.
Fear not, we’ve sourced some useful tips to help you avoid consigning your used equipment to the environmental fires of doom!
- First of all, check the packaging for your product and the bottom of the device you’re looking to dispose of, such as the cartridge or the pod. There may be symbols indicating what type of plastic or material the product is and whether it can be recycled.
- Carefully disassemble the device, cleaning it thoroughly to remove any unwanted dirt or excess e-liquid residue.
- Separate the relevant materials such as plastics, glass and metals for placement in their respective recycling bins. This will make life much easier for those sorting the recycling at the E-Waste and Material Recovery Facilities (MRF’s).
Right, so you’ve just delicately dismantled your old device and lovingly built separated small piles of each material - but where next? There are so many places that will take waste.
Check out Recycle Now to find out the nearest location to recycle your electrical items - you can also break it down into other categories such as plastic and glass. For batteries in particular, there are loads of supermarkets, convenience stores and local household waste recycling centres that will take used batteries from you. You can find out the nearest location to recycle your used batteries here.
So there you have it, how to recycle vaping devices. It doesn’t have to be a major pain or something that is impossible. With a bit of time and attention, it’s easy to do. Certainly, mods and rechargeable vapes that have interchangeable components are certainly more beneficial for the environment than their single-use, disposable cousins.
As the UK’s premier provider of batteries and passionate advocates for the environment, the team at Fogstar want to do all we can to help our customers who vape do so safely and responsibly.
If you have any questions about our batteries, give us a call today for more information and we’ll be happy to help!