A new study reveals the staggering amount of waste generated from disposable vapes in the United Kingdom. Research by the recycling advocacy group Material Focus found approximately 5 million disposable vapes are tossed in the trash each week across Britain. This reflects a fourfold increase over 2020 as these cheap, single-use vaping devices have rapidly gained popularity.
The data shows only 17% of vapers in the UK properly recycle their used disposable vape products in appropriate collection bins. The remaining millions of devices end up littering streets or overflowing landfills when not discarded correctly. These improperly disposed vaping units pose serious fire hazards due to their lithium batteries.
When mixed with regular household trash, the lithium batteries inside disposable vapes can combust and cause dangerous blazes in garbage trucks or waste management plants. Disposable vapes contain metal wiring and other valuable recyclable materials requiring special handling.
Material Focus calculated that with 30 million disposable vapes purchased every month in the UK, the country accumulates over 600 million devices annually. If responsibly recycled, these units could provide useful battery components, like reclaiming lithium for approximately 5,000 electric vehicle batteries per year.
However, current recycling infrastructure in Britain cannot handle the flood of disposable vape waste. Proper recycling requires shops to provide dedicated bins with flame-retardant powder to mitigate fire risks. These receptacles are costly for retailers to implement nationwide. Experts estimate a comprehensive recycling program would cost £200 million per year across the UK.
The vaping industry acknowledges more progress is essential to manage disposable recycling. Top disposable brand Elfbar has pledged to install thousands of takeback points in retail outlets to simplify returning used vapes. But the breakneck market growth has hindered sustainability efforts.
UK government officials have expressed concerns about the environmental impact of throwaway vaping products. Some municipal councils are urging a total ban on disposables, mirroring proposals in Scotland, to tackle the waste crisis.
Clearly, bolstering recycling protocols and reducing disposable vape consumption remain pressing issues as these devices proliferate rapidly. Tossing disposables into normal rubbish passes the buck to future generations. The vaping community must take greater responsibility to avoid an environmental disaster.