Last fact-checked 16 November 2023 | Report a factual error on this article
Disposable vapes, also known as single-use vapes, are a convenient, mess-free, ‘grab-and-go’ way to vape. These single-use vaping devices have become incredibly popular with vapers … but they’re nowhere near as disposable as their name suggests.
In this article, we’ll explain the challenges with single-use vape disposal. We’ll explain why disposables waste is such an important issue to tackle. We’ll show you what the vape industry is doing about this tricky problem. We’ll also share some tips on how you can vape in a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.
The rise and rise of disposable vapes
Disposable vape pods have rapidly become one of the most popular device categories on the market. Our industry has witnessed a massive, sudden, change in people’s vaping styles, all in a very short time period.
The growth stats in this product category are remarkable. In the month of June 2021, barely 1% of gourmeteliquid.co.uk’s total sales were for disposable vape pods. Two years later (June 2023), disposables made up almost 27% of total order volumes.
It’s perhaps no wonder that demand for disposables has soared. Vaping technology has improved over the past few years. Single-use kits now deliver a clean, mess-free vaping experience in a broad range of popular flavours.
There is a downside to this change in vaping habits, however. Millions of disposable vapes end up in landfill every year in the UK. The name ‘disposable’ might imply you can just drop it in the bin, but that’s the last place a spent vape should end up.
Why can’t disposables just go in the bin?
Disposables are electronic devices with built-in lithium batteries. First off, WEEE rules state that vapes and other electronics should not go in the standard household bin. What’s more, the lithium within a disposable vape battery is rare, precious ... and explosive.
Most disposables have a built-in lithium-ion battery. This battery can catch fire or explode if it gets pierced, damaged or crushed, for instance, by the hydraulic trash compactor of a bin lorry.
Lithium battery fires are a major problem for waste facilities. A recent report commissioned by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) revealed that 48% of all waste fires in the UK were caused by Lithium-ion batteries. In the BBC video below, you’ll see workers in hard hats and visors working on a waste sorting line. The fireballs shooting across the room are not fireworks — they’re exploding lithium batteries:
Innocently throwing a vape in the wrong bin isn't just dangerous ... it's also a waste of precious resources. Lithium is a key ingredient of the batteries that power everything from electric cars to smartphones. It costs a huge amount of energy and resources just to get lithium out of the ground. It’s a rare earth mineral that is too precious to squander.
Recent estimates published by the UK Government suggest that 1.3 million single-use vapes are thrown away each week. That adds up to 10 tonnes of lithium going to landfill every year. That’s enough to build 1,200 electric vehicle batteries (source: parliament.uk). All of this lithium can be recycled and reused, but only if it is disposed of responsibly.
A vape isn’t just a lithium-ion battery, of course. Each device is made up of circuitry, casing, heating elements and liquids. Some materials like plastic, steel and aluminium can be recycled. Other parts, for instance the cotton wick and the last few drops of nicotine-infused e-liquid, just need to be disposed of in a responsible manner.
Where to recycle your vape
The good news is that single-use vapes can be recycled … and it’s an easy thing to do.
Once your vape runs out, you just need to take it to a local vape drop-off bin. You can find a vape bin in almost every vape shop and major supermarket in the country. Your local council-run HWRC (Household Waste Recycling Centre) will have one, too. Old vapes can then be carted off for responsible dismantling and disposal by trained professionals.
RecycleYourElectricals.org.uk is a free-to-use website that shows you where to find your nearest vape bin. This site has a handy new search tool that helps you find your nearest vape recycling station in a couple of clicks. All you have to do is enter your postcode on the link below and you’ll get a list of every vape bin in your area:
You can bring your old vapes to any of the local shops, newsagents or council-run dumps listed on the website. It only takes a few minutes — less time than it typically takes to buy a new disposable vape. It’s the safest, simplest way to responsibly dispose of vape waste.
Refillable kit: a greener alternative to disposables
If you’ve been vaping with single-use devices for a while, it might be time to consider switching to refillable kit.
A refillable vape device (also known as a box mod) gives you much more control over your vaping experience. With a box mod, you can tailor your nicotine dose (perfect for weaning yourself off nicotine). You can also try out thousands of different e-liquid flavours. You can often remove and recharge your vape battery, which saves precious lithium and cuts down on electrical waste.
Refillable vapes don’t have to cost a fortune. We have a wide selection of affordable models for sale in our starter kits department. And if you need in-person advice, don’t forget you can call in to our shop: 67 High St, Lees, Oldham, OL4 3BN.
Finally, don’t forget that recycling doesn’t stop the moment you stop using disposables. You can recycle your e-liquid bottles. Plastic bottles can normally go in your local council’s plastics recycling bin. You just need to check which types of plastic your council will accept first. Glass bottles can go straight into the glass collection.
We hope this article has shed some light on disposables and the environment. As you can see, there are lots of simple ways to reduce the environmental impact of vaping. The first step is easy: you just need to put those spent vapes in the right bin.
Stay safe and happy vaping!