Almost 5 MILLION disposable vapes are thrown away in the UK every week, figures reveal – as experts call for them to be banned
- Number of vapes thrown away has quadrupled to 5mill per week over past year
- Only 17% of people correctly recycle their vapes in a shop or recycling centre
The number of disposable vapes thrown away has quadrupled to five million per week over the past year, according to research from a recycling campaign group.
More than seven million single-use vapes are bought every week in the UK – double the amount bought in 2022.
However, only 17 per cent of people correctly recycle their vapes in a shop or local recycling centre, Material Focus said.
Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, said: ‘We need rapid growth in the number of accessible and visible vape recycling drop-off points. And we need proper financing of genuine recycling solutions to recover materials and manage fire risks.
‘Until single-use vape producers, importers and retailers act to genuinely comply with and finance their legal environmental responsibilities, then the calls for banning the sale of them will only strengthen.’
The number of disposable vapes thrown away has quadrupled to five million per week over the past year, according to research from a recycling campaign group
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Research carried out by the organisation found 73 per cent of UK vapers say they throw away single-use vapes, with 33 per cent of 16 to 18-year-old vapers admitting to disposing of their vapes in a bin at their place of education or work.
Five million vapes disposed of per week is equivalent to eight per second, Material Focus said, a sharp rise from the 1.3 million thrown away in 2022.
Vapes and other electrical items should never be put in a regular bin and need to be deposited in dedicated bins so they can be disposed of safely and properly.
Material Focus believes all supermarkets, high street convenience stores, petrol stations and specialist vape stores should be taking back old single-use vapes when new ones are purchased.
‘Very few producers and retailers comply with environmental regulations and haven’t put recycling drop-off points and systems in place,’ Mr Butler said.
‘This all means that too often local authorities are being burdened with the major operational and financial headaches associated with what is now the fastest growing and most dangerous waste stream in the UK – single-use vapes,’ he continued.
Vapes and other electrical items should never be put in a regular bin and need to be deposited in dedicated bins so they can be disposed of safely and properly
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‘Vapes, like any other electrical with a plug, battery or cable, should never be binned and always be recycled as a minimum.’
Material Group asked 5,156 people, including 167 16 to 17-year-olds, about their methods of disposing vapes.
According to the group’s research, 76 per cent of vapers say they would be more likely to recycle if vapes were marketed as ‘recyclable’.
More than half (54 per cent) of vapers said they would be more likely to recycle them if there were recycling points in stores and 40 per cent of 16 to 18-year-old vapers said they would be more likely to recycle if there were recycling points in their place of education or work.
The UK Vaping Industry Association said the industry would be working to ‘educate customers about how to dispose of their single-use devices and other vapes in an environmentally responsible way’.
The statement continued: ‘We have always acknowledged the environmental challenge posed by single-use vapes.
‘We welcome the solutions put forward by Material Focus and are leading industry action in a number of these areas and more.
‘Education of consumers about how to recycle single-use vapes; product innovations that enhance recycling rates; compliance with the current regulations; and investment in waste collection points at point of use, and not just at point of sale, are all critical in reducing the environmental impact of single-use vapes.
‘We must protect the environment while also recognising the contribution disposable vapes have made in helping adult smokers start on their quit journeys, in turn helping to achieve the Government’s 2030 smoke-free ambition.’
Earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics found 5.2 per cent of people used e-cigarettes daily in 2022, up from 4.9 per cent in 2021, with a further 3.5 per cent reporting occasional vape use, up from 2.8 per cent.
In Scotland, First Minister Humza Yousaf has promised a consultation on banning the sale of single-use vapes.
He said: ‘The Government will consult on curbing the sale of disposable vapes, including consulting on an outright ban.’
What is an e-cigarette and how is it different to smoking tobacco?
An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows users to inhale nicotine by heating a vapour from a solution that contain nicotine, propylene and flavourings.
As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke like a traditional cigarette.
But while they have been branded as carrying a lower risk than cigarettes, an increasing swell of studies is showing health dangers.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, but the vapor does contain some harmful chemicals.
Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical which makes it difficult for smokers to quit.
Nearly three million people in Britain use e-cigarettes, and more than nine million Americans.
1. Standard e-cigarette
Battery-powered device containing nicotine e-liquid.
It vaporizes flavored nicotine liquid.
Very similar to normal e-cigarettes but with sleeker design and, in the US, a higher concentration of nicotine. In the UK and EU limited to 20 mg/ml.
Thanks to its ‘nicotine salts’, manufacturers claim one pod delivers the amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
It is composed of an e-cigarette (battery and temperature control), and a pod of e-liquid which is inserted at the end.
The liquid contains nicotine, chemicals and flavorings.
Like other vaping devices, it vaporizes the e-liquid.
3. IQOS by Philip Morris
Pen-shaped, charged like an iPod.
It is known as a ‘heat not burn’ smokeless device, heating tobacco but not burning it (at 350C compared to 600C as normal cigarettes do).
The company claims this method lowers users’ exposure to carcinogen from burning tobacco.
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