Vaping & The Environment- How YOU Can Make A Difference
WHILE vaping has made huge strides in helping millions of smokers move away from cigarettes, the rise in vaping is bringing a new green threat to the health of the planet.
Cigarette butts have long been the most littered item on Earth, with 4.5 trillion discarded every year polluting the world’s streets, beaches, and waterways - but with e-cigarettes exploding in popularity, experts say vaping might not be too far behind.
Since vapes contain plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, and batteries which unless disposed of properly won’t biodegrade and could find their way into waterways, and soil, endangering wildlife, it’s time to take action.
To show the scale of the problem - and confusion - amongst vapers - 51% of young people have admitted to throwing away disposable e-cigarettes and pods in the rubbish, 17 % in recycling bins, not designated for vape use, and a disturbing 10% of vapers admitted to chucking them on the ground when they were finished with them, according to a survey in 2020 by the Truth Initiative.
Almost half of all vape device owners - specifically 49.6% - revealed they had no idea how to dispose of their vapes properly since the e-cigarette product they currently used failed to provide any information on where to send batteries or empty pods - so perhaps it’s no surprise that vape litter is becoming a problem.
So what can vapers do to be more environmentally savvy?
The quickest and easiest eco-friendly path to go down is to check if your e-cigarette manufacturer or the vendor - where you bought your product - offers a recycling program. A few offer to recycle their customers’ used products - including mail-back bags - with the incentive of free or discounted products for “vapes” returned for reclamation.
If not, then the US government’s Food and Drink Administration states that all e-cigarette waste and e-liquid waste should be treated as household hazardous waste (HHW), meaning it is banned from landfills in America.
This means that as a vaper you need to
- Check with state and local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for more information on HHW options in your area.
- If your community doesn’t offer free collection, see if there are designated days in your area for picking up HHS at a central location to ensure safe disposal.
- If your community doesn’t have a permanent collection site or a special collection day, you may be able to drop off certain products at local businesses for recycling or disposal.
- There are also independent businesses that will collect from your home for a fee.
The FDA also doesn’t recommend vape kits are broken down to recycle since e-juice often contains nicotine and therefore has contaminated the rest of the product.
The FDA’s five-point guidance for recycling vapes is:
- Check with state and local resources for regulations and hazardous waste collection sites.
- Seal used vapes and keep them no longer than 90 days before disposal.
- Do not rinse e-liquid from cartridges, it will contaminate water.
- Avoid getting e-liquid on the skin.
- Keep vapes away from kids and pets, the nicotine can be poisonous.
Another option for turning in vapes is through the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which operates a prescription drug take-back scheme to help prevent prescription drug abuse - and in 2020 it added vapes and cartridges to its list of items. It doesn’t however include lithium-ion batteries so any vape which includes one - and which can’t be removed - won’t be accepted.
If you can remove the battery from your vape kit then it can be recycled at battery drop-off points found in most big-name stores such as Target or Walmart or your nearest HHW point.
If you can’t remove the battery (such as disposable vapes), then it can only be treated as an HHW item - dispose of it either via your at-home collection system, if you have one, or take it to an HHW collection site.
It’s important to note that vape’s lithium-ion batteries pose a huge fire risk when crushed in a waste truck or a waste-processing plant - which is why it’s so important they are not thrown out with household rubbish.
Another good reason for disposing of batteries with care is recycling them has huge benefits for the environment as they include a number of materials that can be reused - in particular lithium which can help power a myriad of household items including laptops, phones, and even electric cars!
While there is legislation that regulates waste management, there are currently no direct regulations for the recycling or utilization of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and vaporizers as product items in the USA, EU, China, and Japan.
Here at Vaping.com, we believe more needs to be done to make recycling vapes easier, so people are encouraged to vape more responsibly - please fill out our questionnaire to have your say on your experience with disposing of vapes, as we petition for change.