With the booming vaping industry comes the concern for how e-cigarettes are disposed of. Given the fact that e-cigarette manufacturing companies don’t overtly promote or share how to dispose of vapes and pods – do people know how or where to toss a used disposable vape or pod?
Well, a survey by the Truth Initiative suggests that “more than half (51 per cent) of young e-cigarette users reported disposing of used e-cigarette pods or empty disposables in the trash,” and “almost half (49.1 per cent) of young people don’t know what to do with used e-cigarette pods and disposable devices.”
What might be overlooked in this instance is the environmental impact of vape disposals, especially considering the cultural phenomenon vaping has become over recent years.
E-cigarette use has been a booming market since the early 2010s as statistics show that Canadian e-cigarette sales have nearly tripled in revenue since 2014. Standing at $1.26B in revenue as of 2022 compared to vape sales in 2014 that brought in $.47B. Canada also ranks as the third biggest revenue generator in the e-cigarette market on a global scale.
And despite restrictions on the sales of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes in Canada, a study done by the School of Public Health & Health Systems, University of Waterloo,Ontario, suggests that there’s an increase of smokers and non-smokers trying e-cigarettes and the proportion of non-smokers trying e-cigarettes nearly doubled according to a 2012 Canadian survey.
With the increase of vaping consumerism, millions of disposable vapes are ending up in landfills, despite containing metals like lithium that are often used in batteries.
Vaping devices are often made of lithium-ion batteries that can also be used in phone batteries and electric car batteries. And when they’re tossed as a single-use or non-reusable item, it becomes waste that could have been recycled into phone or EV batteries.
Not only is it wasteful to dispose of vape products without recycling them, they also pose harm to the environment.
A study by environmental philosopher Yogi Hendlin stated that “highly concentrated nicotine and e-waste residuals present biohazard risks, and the hard plastics, lithium-ion batteries, and electronic circuit boards require disassembly, sorting, and further recycling and disposal. When littered or improperly discarded, broken devices can leach heavy metals (including mercury, lead, and bromines), battery acid, and nicotine into the local environment and urban landscape, affecting humans and other organisms.”
The Truth Initiative suggested in their report that e-cigarette companies be held accountable and that they should establish a standardized process for the disposal of e-cigarette devices,refills and e-liquids.
One vape store in Sudbury has already set an initiative in the city to collect and encourage recycling disposable vapes and e-cigarette pods. The vape recycling program began roughly 18 months ago at the North 49 Vape Store Sudbury when the manager realized the waste that goes into buying and consuming disposable vapes.
“I think the main impetus to do it was just, I was tired of picking up pods and disposables from the parking lot and people treat them like they're the new cigarette butts,” Greg Steele, manager of the vape store said. “We came up with this program where people can bring in their disposables and throw them in the recycling bin and we have little tabs so they can fill out their name and phone number.”
From there, the people who bring in their used pods and disposable vapes enter a draw that happens weekly at the vape store to potentially win some items.
“And we give them refillable devices, which are easier on the environment than disposables, T-shirts, hats, that kind of stuff,” Steele said.
The store then delivers them to either a battery recycling agency in Sudbury or to the city’s hazardous waste management where they will be properly and safely dismantled and recycled.
“What I would really like to do is change people's patterns of just throwing a pod or disposable on the ground. I'd like to incentivize them bringing them back (to the store),” Steele said.
To recycle and dispose of vapes and pods properly, they can be brought to North 49, but there are also other ways of safely recycling e-cigarettes. They can be recycled through the city’s Household Hazardous Waste Depot at 1853 Frobisher Street. The city confirmed through email that they are in the process of adding e-cigarettes to Waste Wise App, which is an app that informs people on how to dispose of different types of waste properly.
They can also be disposed of from home, if they are done properly and safely. Battery removal can be dangerous and Sudbury.com urges viewers to wear appropriate safety equipment and be careful. If in doubt, consult a professional.Check out Sudbury.com’s TikTok tutorial on how to recycle vapes from home here. The quick tutorial was referenced from this video here.