Vapes May Be “Disposable” but Our Planet Isn’t: The Environmental Cost of Vaping

WRITTEN BY Enya McIntyre

October 3, 2022

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Vapes May Be “Disposable” but Our Planet Isn’t: The Environmental Cost of Vaping

by | Oct 3, 2022 | Climate

Enya McIntyre

3 Oct, 2022

Your 3 vapes a week equals 3,000 years of decomposition. But they’re still disposable, right?

 

Disposable vapes are everywhere and they won’t be disappearing anytime soon as their plastic bodies and lithium batteries mean they will take up to 1,000 years to decompose. According to popular Cork retailer, Vape Store, disposable vapes make up about 70% of their weekly sales.

 

“They have taken over in vape stores. It used to be all liquids but now the majority of sales are for disposable vapes”, says owner, Michael.

 

E-cigarettes entered the market as an alternative to cigarettes for smokers looking to quit. However, the new, slicker disposable vape model has attracted much younger audiences – some of which never smoked to begin with. 

 

When I was in school I would have been able to count the number of people who smoked on one hand, but now everyone is vaping”, says a student at the University of Limerick.

 

The outer layer of a typical vape pen consists of plastic with the inner cavity hosting the e-liquid and nicotine, a lithium battery, heating coil and other elements. Aside from plastic there is also the issue of the lithium battery which, when not disposed of correctly, runs the risk of leaking metals, battery acid and other toxic chemicals into the environment. 

 

The Extended Producer Responsibility is a model adopted by a number of countries including Ireland that sets out a number of items for which producers must take responsibility for the disposal of. Batteries feature on this list. According to a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, disposable vapes fall under the scope of this directive.

“Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Battery Directives, all producers are required to give information to users about end of life environmental management of their electrical and battery-powered devices and organise systems for recycling of WEEE and waste batteries”, said the spokesperson.

It is implied that the sale of disposable vapes are to be treated like that of electricals. Take for example the sale of a washing machine at Harvey Norman, the consumer is given information on the end of life policy for the item and an offer from Harvey Norman to accept responsibility for its disposal.

 

Cork’s Vape Store, as with many other vape and e-cigarette stores, provide consumers with an in-store return service for used vapes. However, as owner Michael points out, 

 

“It’s not just vape shops anymore when it comes to disposables. They’re being sold in every corner shop, every Centra, you name it, they’re all selling them”.

 

How many of you have bought disposable vapes in a local corner shop? I imagine the number is quite high.

 

How many of these shops have advised you on the nearest disposal point or offered one in store? I imagine this number is significantly lower or non-existent. 

 

This raises the question: is it appropriate for regular corner shops to be selling disposable vapes? 

 

A more serious question we should be asking is: should disposable vapes be sold at all? 

 

In February of this year a health debate was held in the Oireachtas relating to Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products. Director of the Irish Vape Vendors Association (IVVA), Mr. Declan Connolly, spoke out on disposable vapes saying, 

 

“The IVVA calls for an addition to the proposed Bill whereby single-use disposable e-cigarettes should be prohibited from sale. There are a number of issues that arise from this latest development in the e-cigarette market… Disposable e-cigarettes are extremely difficult to recycle and lead to a lot of batteries and plastic being  thrown into general waste”.

 

Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening. Without proper guidance and facilities, the majority of vape users are throwing used ones into regular bins.

I didn’t even think of the environmental effect. I just throw them in the bin, I don’t know what to do with them, I’d say most people are the same. This is the first time I’ve ever thought about the lithium battery”, says a vape user at the University of Limerick.

 

The fact remains – if we don’t learn to dispose of vapes properly or dispose of this culture completely, we will have to live with the consequences that our planet and we face.

2 Comments

  1. Caliva Alien OG

    Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and
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    Reply
    • Damian Dalton

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      Damian

      Reply

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