A new study on the recycling performance of single-use vapes by Waste Experts, commissioned by vape producer ANDS, states that the products can be recycled if “collected and handled correctly”.
250 units of two different single-use vape products were provided as new and analysed in the study. Product A was an existing and widely available single-use plastic and aluminium vape and product B was ANDS’ new cardboard-based product.
The study found that 80.09% of the material in product A was recyclable and 74.78% of material in product B was recyclable. However, the study found that 99.3% of product B was either recyclable or recoverable compared to 97.6% for product A. In terms of disposal to landfill, product B performed better with 0.7% sent to landfill compared with 1.15% for product A.
In total, it took 210 minutes to dismantle all 250 units of product A compared to 90 minutes for product B. Product B was found to have seven components and product A had eleven components.
The survey’s findings were revealed to parliamentarians at a special House of Parliament reception. Speaking at the launch of the new study, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping Mark Pawsey MP said the “climate is changing” around single-use e-cigarettes but there is a “window of opportunity” to address the environmental impact of disposable vapes.
Waste Experts says the recyclability of these products was measured on the materials used, the weight of recyclable components, the amount of waste diverted from landfill, disassembly time, the number of components within each vape and the weight of the overall product in each case.
Stewart Price, Scheme Manager at Waste Experts, commented: “Whilst there are some variations between the two products, fundamentally our analysis shows they both demonstrated a strong recyclability performance.”
However, Price also said there are challenges that “urgently” need addressing. He said: “Due to the hazardous materials found in vapes, they need to be dismantled by hand as there is no current method to safely mechanically treat all types of vapes, for example, the e-liquid container and the lithium batteries – this leads to an expensive and also rate-limiting step because suitably qualified personnel are needed.”
The study identified other challenges such as limited options for recycling plastic wrapping as much of this material goes to energy from waste (EfW) applications. The study also said industry must consider the treatment of used units where their condition may have deteriorated due to length of use and/or storage pending treatment.
It also states that “extra attention” or specialised treatment might be required for used devices that have degraded over time to ensure they are managed appropriately.
Single-use vapes are made up of components which, unless disposed of safely and responsibly, can last on our planet for years.
Reacting to the study, Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), said: “Any form of littering is unacceptable – it damages the environment, economy, and is a blight on the areas where we live, work, and socialise.
“Single-use vapes are made up of components which, unless disposed of safely and responsibly, can last on our planet for years and years. And the sight of them, discarded on our streets, is becoming far too common.
“This is why earlier this year ZWS was happy to lead on the ‘environmental impact of single use e-cigarettes’ report. Tackling our throwaway culture is a priority for us and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government in highlighting the huge impact that littering these items has on the environment.”