Disposable Vapes Are Definitely Bad For The Environment

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The headline of this story might be slightly misleading because while disposable vapes, which are defined as single-use vapes, are definitely bad for the environment, it’s not so much the vapes that are terrible for the environment as it is the failure of vapers to recycle them.

Can you recycle a disposable vape?

The bulk of the components that comprise single-use vapes are recyclable. Not that they’re ever recharged but the batteries inside of them are usually rechargeable. Disregarding the fact that many disposables actually use rechargeable batteries that are never recharged due to the design of the devices that house them, which are often designed without a charging port, the real problem seems to be what happens to them when vapers are done with them.

Single-use vaping devices are not being recycled

Beautiful Vaping Woman

This woman is vaping with a reusable vape that uses a rechargeable battery. These types of vaping devices produce way less e-waste than single-use vapes.

The real problem with single-use e-cigarettes is that vapers toss them in a bin with the rest of their rubbish for the rubbish collector to haul off to a landfill. Once they reach a landfill, that’s when the real issues start. Their environmental impact can be rather severe given their small size. In a landfill, they’re subjected to harsh conditions like the weight of other rubbish, heat, and so on. Under these types of conditions, a carelessly discarded vape battery can explode and start a fire. As if that wasn’t enough of a nightmare, the fire can spread to other rubbish, including things that are made out of plastic and rubber. The end result can be quite devastating to the environment. There’s really only one word to explain it: toxic.

Material Focus, a London-based nonprofit that wants you and everyone else to recycle their waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), has examined the problem of vape waste in the United Kingdom. According to their research, five million single-use vapes are being thrown away instead of recycled each week in the UK. Based on their research, they have found that only 17% of vape users are actually recycling their devices in the correct recycling bins.

In Australia, ABC News reporter Kate Leaver reported in March that the growing volume of vape waste in the country was proving to be costly and dangerous to recycle.

So what can vapers do about all this? Recycle.

Recycling disposable vapes is harder than it needs to be

How do you even recycle a single-use vape? Or any vape for that matter? The answer isn’t all that clear and the exact answer really depends on where you are in the world when your vape runs out.

If you’re in Australia, you might be able to take advantage of one of the many B-Cycle drop-off points. B-Cycle, Australia’s official battery stewardship scheme, does accept batteries from vaping devices.

Depending on where you deliver your old vapes to be recycled, you might be required to remove the battery from your device, which can be tricky and dangerous to do. In fact, it’s dangerous enough that we don’t advise it. If you try to pry your vape open to remove the battery and you accidentally damage the battery, very bad things can happen.

Punctures, swelling and bloating or all signs that a battery is damaged. Once in a compromised state, they can leak toxic chemicals and even explode. The key to this is the electrolyte liquid that’s inside of them, which is flammable. When the liquid comes into contact with oxygen that’s in the air, it can ignite and cause a fire or explosion. With this understanding, you can probably see how they can easily cause fires when they’re discarded in a landfill instead of recycled at a recycling facility.

Where to recycle your used vapes and vape batteries

If you want to recycle your old vapes, you can. Here are some ways you can recycle them:

  • Material recovery facilities (recycling centres)
  • Municipal waste recycling programs
  • Various retailers that accept e-waste for recycling
  • E-waste and battery recycling programs

Whatever you do, it’s probably in your best interest to not try to open up your vape and remove the battery yourself so that it can be recycled. One exception to this is if your vape is designed with a removable battery, meaning that it’s actually designed to let you take the battery out. Most of the disposable vapes aren’t made like this but there are vapes that are, like some vape pens and vape mods. If you do have a vape with a removable battery design, you should still exercise caution when extracting the battery.

After the battery has been removed, put tape over the terminals and store them in a cool and dry area that’s kept at normal room temperature. The tape will keep the battery terminals from coming into contact with anything that they shouldn’t, making it safer to store and transport them.

Are disposable vapes banned?

Australia announced earlier this year that it plans to ban single-use disposable vapes. Although the law does not seem to be enforced, flavoured disposable vapes are banned in the United States. Earlier in the year, France announced that it was planning to ban disposable vapes. Similar measures have been taken in Germany, Scotland, and New Zealand.

While not all of the disposable vape bans around the world have cited vape waste as their primary reasoning, it’s definitely one of the reasons why lawmakers have taken issue with these popular types of vapes.

Do you recycle your vapes? If you do, leave a comment below to tell us how you recycle your vapes.


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