Vaping industry criticises local authorities’ “lack of investment” in recycling


disposable vapes

In remarks local authorities called “profoundly disappointing”, the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) criticised councils over what it described as a “staggering lack of investment” in collection points for used e-cigarettes.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) said it was “profoundly disappointed” by the criticism. LARAC represents local authority views on waste and recycling issues and is run by an Executive of 20 serving local authority waste management officers.

LARAC said that local authorities are “shouldering most of the responsibility” for handling waste vapes and called for producers to bear the total net costs of collecting and recycling disposable vapes.

The UK government announced a ban on single-use vapes earlier this year, which is set to come into force on 1 April 2025.

Before the ban was announced, the UKVIA – a non-profit that represents the vape retailers – said it issued Freedom of Information requests to 10 provincial cities and 10 central London councils, including Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow and Westminster.

According to the Association, 60% of local authorities said they offer vape waste disposal at civic amenity sites or designated collection facilities, and one in ten have introduced vape waste containers in public places. Around one-third do not offer vape waste disposal containers or drop-off points of any kind, the UKVIA said.

The Association also found that only one of the councils had introduced kerbside or household vape collection; however, 80% had no plans to invest in new vape collection solutions in the next 12 months.

However, one of the local authorities, Wandsworth Borough Council, said it plans to introduce a network of small WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) waste collection bins with funding support from non-profit Material Focus.

If local authorities can provide public waste disposal facilities for all types of waste, why not used vapes?

40% of respondents said they provide information on council websites and 30% use social media to raise awareness amongst vape users on how to recycle their used electronic cigarettes, the Association said.

Responding to the criticism, LARAC called for the UK government to implement a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) levy to encourage consumers to return used vapes responsibly. LARAC also proposed an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework to shift the financial burden onto retailers and manufacturers to “foster a circular economy”.

The UKVIA said it “acknowledges that the sector needs to demonstrate the highest levels of environmental responsibility”; however, it argued that local authorities must provide the necessary infrastructure in public places.

John Dunne, Director General of the UKVIA, commented: “Advocating a ban on disposable vapes on environmental grounds while not committing any investment to vape waste collection, despite the need for such facilities in public places – which are controlled by local government – is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

“We can, and will, do much more to ensure environmental compliance across the sector, but that doesn’t mean local government can simply offload its responsibility for providing vape waste collection facilities in public places.

“The industry pays its business rates like any other sector and this makes up one of the largest sources of income for local authorities – a percentage of which is earmarked for waste management. If local authorities can provide public waste disposal facilities for all types of waste, why not used vapes?”

Local authorities respond

Local authorities

LARAC highlighted concern about the “lack of commitment” from the vape industry to invest in facilities capable of handling vapes at the end of their lifecycle, despite the “commendable efforts” of councils that introduced vape collection points across Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) networks in collaboration with producer compliance schemes.

While supporting the idea of a separate category for vapes under WEEE regulations, LARAC said it has reservations about the “potential logistical challenges and increased kerbside collections” associated with collecting vapes separately.

LARAC has urged the government to enforce British standard design regulations on vape manufacturers, mandating recyclability, and efficient product dismantling.

Reacting to the criticism, LARAC Executive Director Carole Taylor, said: “Vapes are a difficult to recycle material and all vape producers have a legal responsibility to finance take-back of vapes for recycling, not cash-strapped councils.

“Councils are interested in the safe disposal/recycling of vapes but need funding appropriately. This is the very heart of producer responsibility. Why should public money be used to finance the collection and recycling of a product that makes huge profits for the firms that make and sell vapes?”

Send this to a friend