How vapes can harm the environment and wildlife
Vapes, also known as e-cigarettes, are devices that deliver nicotine or other substances to users through a heated aerosol. They are often marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, but they can also pose serious risks to the environment and wildlife if not disposed of properly.
According to Zero Waste Scotland, an estimated 26 million disposable vapes are thrown away in Scotland each year, of which 10% are littered and more than half are disposed of incorrectly. This means that millions of vapes end up in landfills, incinerators, or the natural environment, where they can leach toxic chemicals, pollute water sources, and harm animals.
One of the main components of vapes is the battery, which contains metals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. These metals can cause fires or explosions if they come into contact with water or heat. They can also contaminate the soil and groundwater if they corrode or leak. Moreover, some vapes contain plastic or metal parts that can take hundreds of years to degrade, adding to the global problem of plastic pollution.
Another component of vapes is the liquid or pod, which contains nicotine or other substances that are vaporized and inhaled by users. These liquids or pods can contain harmful chemicals such as propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and additives. These chemicals can pose health risks to humans and animals if ingested or absorbed through the skin. For example, nicotine is a highly addictive and poisonous substance that can cause vomiting, seizures, or even death in high doses.
How vapes can be recycled and reused
The best way to prevent vape littering and its negative impacts is to avoid using disposable vapes altogether and opt for reusable or refillable ones instead. However, if users do choose to use disposable vapes, they should make sure to recycle them properly and safely.
Recycling vapes can help reduce waste, save resources, and protect the environment. Recycling vapes involves separating the different components of the device and sending them to specialized facilities where they can be processed and recovered. For example, batteries can be recycled into new batteries or other products, while liquids or pods can be disposed of as hazardous waste.
However, recycling vapes is not as easy as recycling other items such as paper or plastic. Vapes are considered electronic waste (e-waste), which requires special handling and treatment. Moreover, not all recycling centers accept vapes or have the capacity to process them. Therefore, users need to find out where they can recycle their vapes locally and follow the instructions carefully.
Some retailers and manufacturers also offer take-back schemes or incentives for users to return their used vapes for recycling or reuse. For instance, some companies provide discounts or vouchers for users who bring back their empty pods or cartridges. Users should check with their local vape shops or online sources to see if they can benefit from such schemes.
How Scotland plans to ban single-use vapes
In addition to recycling vapes, Scotland is also planning to ban the sale of single-use vapes altogether. This is part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle the environmental impacts of vaping products and reduce their use among children and young people.
The Scottish Government announced in its Programme for Government 2023-2024 that it will consult on a proposal to ban single-use vapes along with other measures. The consultation is expected to take place next year and will involve input from various stakeholders such as retailers, local authorities, youth groups, and health experts.
The Scottish Government said that it is “deeply concerned” about the use of vaping products by children and young people, as well as the long-term effects of these products on health. It also said that it is committed to taking action to address the environmental impacts of single-use vapes, which contribute to littering and waste generation.
The ban on single-use vapes would be a first in the UK and would align with Scotland’s ambition to become a net-zero nation by 2045. It would also support Scotland’s tobacco control strategy, which aims to create a smoke-free generation by 2034.
How Scotland will provide 1,000 free vape recycling bins
While the ban on single-use vapes is still under consideration, Scotland is already taking steps to provide more recycling options for vape users. A campaign to tackle vape littering has been launched by vape brand ELFBAR in partnership with the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF).
The campaign will see 1,000 free vape recycling bins installed at convenience stores across Scotland starting from mid-October. The bins will be available for SGF members who sign up for the scheme at the SGF Annual Conference on October 12-13 in Glasgow.
The bins will allow customers to drop off their used vapes at their local shops instead of throwing them away or littering them. The bins will then be collected by ELFBAR and sent to a licensed recycling facility where the vapes will be separated and processed.
The campaign aims to increase the awareness and accessibility of vape recycling among consumers and retailers. It also hopes to encourage more responsible and sustainable vaping practices in Scotland.
SGF chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE said that SGF welcomes the opportunity to work with ELFBAR to help retailers play their part in tackling the environmental damage done by single-use vapes. He also said that SGF promotes responsible community retailing and that the campaign is an important step forward in providing easy waste and recycling options for vape users.
Eve Peters, director of government affairs and spokesperson for ELFBAR in the UK, said that ELFBAR is delighted to be working with SGF in the development and delivery of this vital campaign. She also said that ELFBAR is committed to reducing the environmental impact of its products and supporting the Scottish Government’s goals of creating a net-zero and smoke-free nation.
Will Scotland succeed in its vape recycling and banning efforts?
The campaign to provide 1,000 free vape recycling bins in Scotland is a positive initiative that could help reduce the amount of vape littering and waste in the country. However, it is not clear how effective or popular the scheme will be among consumers and retailers. Some challenges that could arise include:
- Lack of awareness or interest: Some consumers or retailers may not be aware of the availability or benefits of the vape recycling bins. They may also not be interested or motivated to use them or sign up for them. Therefore, more education and promotion may be needed to increase the uptake and participation of the scheme.
- Lack of convenience or accessibility: Some consumers or retailers may find it inconvenient or difficult to access the vape recycling bins. They may not have a nearby shop that offers the service or they may prefer to dispose of their vapes in other ways. Therefore, more locations and options may be needed to make the scheme more convenient and accessible for everyone.
- Lack of enforcement or compliance: Some consumers or retailers may not comply with the rules or instructions of the vape recycling scheme. They may not separate their vapes properly or they may mix them with other items. They may also ignore or bypass the scheme altogether and continue to litter or dispose of their vapes incorrectly. Therefore, more enforcement and compliance measures may be needed to ensure the quality and safety of the scheme.
The proposal to ban single-use vapes in Scotland is a bold move that could have significant impacts on the environment, health, and economy of the country. However, it is not certain if or when the ban will be implemented or how effective or popular it will be among stakeholders. Some challenges that could arise include:
- Lack of evidence or consensus: Some stakeholders may question or oppose the ban on single-use vapes due to a lack of evidence or consensus on its necessity or feasibility. They may argue that single-use vapes are not as harmful as claimed or that there are better alternatives or solutions. They may also raise concerns about the legal, technical, or practical aspects of implementing and enforcing the ban.
- Lack of support or cooperation: Some stakeholders may resist or reject the ban on single-use vapes due to a lack of support or cooperation from other parties. They may face pressure or opposition from industry groups, lobby groups, or consumers who have vested interests or preferences for single-use vapes. They may also encounter difficulties or conflicts with other governments or jurisdictions who have different policies or regulations on vaping products.
- Lack of resources or capacity: Some stakeholders may struggle or fail to comply with the ban on single-use vapes due to a lack of resources or capacity. They may not have enough funding, staff, equipment, or facilities to implement, monitor, or enforce the ban. They may also not have enough time, information, guidance, or assistance to adapt, transition, or cope with the ban.
Therefore, it remains to be seen whether Scotland will succeed in its vape recycling and banning efforts. The outcomes will depend on various factors such as public opinion, political will, industry response, legal challenges, technical issues, and environmental impacts. The future of vaping in Scotland is still uncertain and unpredictable.