Disposable Vapes Contribute to Environmental Crisis

/ 5 min read

Disposable Vapes Contribute to Environmental Crisis

Disposable vapes have made headlines for many reasons since their rapid launch to fame in the last two years. The reason for their stardom goes beyond their popularity among UK consumers; the little devices have become quite infamous.

You can learn more about how they work and how they compare to traditional vapes in our blog, Disposables Vs Rechargeables. The staggering demand for disposables caused a surge of illegal imports into the UK, with retailers scrambling to stay stocked and buying devices that exceeded legal safety limits all other vaping products must adhere to.

This has caused a massive crackdown by trading standards, amidst fears of public safety being compromised. Officials and industry experts recently held a webinar discussing the future of disposables, with illegal imports and the rising youth access issue as primary causes for concern.

Another of disposable vaping devices biggest problems however is the environmental impact. They are non-recyclable and contain mixed electronic parts alongside nicotine-contaminated contents that cannot be recycled or disposed of outside of landfill by the public.

As so many are sold and used up each day, millions of the devices are now sat in landfill. It is this reality that has sparked a new issue further to those we already understand about the way these little compact vapes can put pressure on the planet.


Natural Resources are Dwindling

The boom in electric cars has made us all a little more aware of the materials that go into making them. As they are a decidedly greener alternative to combustion engines, it is fair to say an electric car contributes more to preserving the planet than a disposable vaping device.

While many of us wouldn’t think about it, disposable vapes and electric cars share a vital component; they both use lithium batteries. In fact, almost all of our beloved tech from life-saving hospital machinery to mobile phones, rely on lithium in order work.


Lithium however requires a very intensive mining process and is available in very sparse amounts. With an already immense demand for electronic goods in our digital age, disposable vapes are adding yet more strain.

Disposable Vapes Waste Lithium

Sky news reports that users in the UK are, on average, throwing away two disposable vapes every second. This equates to around 10 tones of lithium from all those combined tiny batteries effectively being locked-off from the economy each year either in landfill or by incineration.

Each disposable vape battery contains only one tenth of a gram of lithium metal, but they have quickly added up as the retail craze has persisted. In fact, the total amount of lithium wasted is enough to produce an additional 1200 electric cars annually. Elon Musk won’t be happy!

Electric car chassis

Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials & Society at University College London, said:

 "We can't be throwing these materials away, it really is madness in a climate emergency. It's in your laptop, it's in your mobile phone, it's in electric cars. This is the material that we are absolutely relying on to shift away from fossil fuels and address climate issues."

Market research by Opinium for Material Focus, a non-profit recycling organisation, found 18% of 4,000 people surveyed had bought a vape in the previous year. Of those, 7% said they had bought a disposable device. This suggests around 168 million disposable vapes are being bought annually in the UK.

Of those 168 million devices, over half of users report throwing them in bins rather than disposing via waste electrical recycling or returns schemes. The director of Material Focus, Scott Butler said of the issue:

"From producers through to us as consumers, we need to be more mindful in the decisions that we make, the products that we manufacture and the products that we buy,"

"It needs to be made significantly easier for many people to do the right thing, because most people want to do the right thing."

Choose a Responsible Alternative

If you use, or have considered using disposable vaping devices, there are alternatives available. Pod devices like the EDGE GO offer the same level of practicality and convenience. They are also available in nic salt e-liquid flavours which offer the same smoothness and satisfaction to cravings as disposables.

The benefit of course is that only GO pods need to be disposed of, the battery and its precious lithium can be used time and time again. With our Corporate Social Responsibility policy in place, we are committed to building a sustainable vaping industry that we can all enjoy.

Under UK law, e-cigarettes like disposables are classed as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Producers or importers of products classed as WEEE have certain responsibilities under the regulations to ensure they are recycled, including placing themselves on a register.

Sadly, some of the biggest disposable vaping brands have not shown willing to comply. Sky News’ investigation found no evidence of either Geek Bar of Elf Bar being on the WEEE register. Time will tell if they up their game and demonstrate more responsibility.

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