During our surveys, and even while out and about, we are finding – and recording – increasing numbers of disposable vaping products.
While we understand that vaping was originally developed to support people moving away from tobacco use, these were refillable, multiple use devices.
The purpose of the latest single-use disposable vaping pods is questionable. While their sale is officially restricted to over-18s, they are freely available on the Internet from many outlets. Designed in eye-catching colours and in many trendy ‘flavours’, these seem to be attracting a whole new audience, many of whom are young and have never smoked before. One popular brand even has special Christmas varieties in limited edition packaging or ‘mouth-watering’ flavours to make them even more appealing! Are these devices the vaping equivalent of alco-pops? Nico-pops perhaps?
Most contain 2% nicotine and although nicotine-free varieties are available, it is invariably the 2% vaping pods we find in the environment.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and may encourage young people to switch to tobacco later in life. The long-term effect on human health of the ‘juice’ is largely unknown. While the main components, propylene glycol and glycerol are deemed safe for food use, a recent study has shown that their inhalation can damage epithelial cells in human small airways.
Each disposable vaping pod comes with an array of packaging. Although sold as ‘disposable’, they should not be thrown away as they contain a lithium battery. Lithium is a finite resource, critical for our net zero transition, but it is going to waste in these devices: at least 1.3 million of them are discarded every week in the UK, the equivalent of 10 tonnes of lithium going to landfill each year (enough to power 1200 cars). Heavy metals can leach into the environment as battery casings corrode, with the potential to cause soil and water pollution.
Disposal of these items is an issue. They cannot be put in a normal waste bin, or recycled as a whole unit; producers simply advise taking them to the tip. Specialist vape shops should accept used vapes and send them to where the batteries can be recycled. Rother District Council states that small WEEE items can be placed in a carrier bag and left on top of your black or green bin.
These unnecessary electrical items contain plastic, batteries and nicotine, all of which are hazardous to the environment and wildlife when littered. The Green Alliance states that we should be moving towards durable and reusable products designed sustainably, not inventing new ways of causing harm to wildlife and wasting valuable resources. Although their environmental impact has been debated in parliament, the government has only researched the health implications of vaping nicotine, and no environmental assessment of disposable vapes has yet been made. Having found so many in recent surveys, Strandliners has decided to start collecting data now, in anticipation of a government consultation. Please help us by recording any of these you find in the environment.
If you see a discarded disposable vape to its packaging in the environment, please take a photograph if possible, remove the item(s) and record what you have found. We would love to know:
What you found (vaping pod, item etc.)
Where you found them (street, park, beach etc.)
What brand and how many you found.
Then submit your recordings here.
Your findings will build a body of evidence to help us lobby for change, Thank you.