Can you recycle disposable vapes?

Disposable vapes and e-liquids in a store that are hard to recycle

There’s been a huge increase in the demand for e-cigarettes and vapes as an alternative to smoking. Nearly half a billion vapes are bought each year. While quitting smoking is better for the environment, the substitute may be causing just as much damage. They may be more convenient for the user, but they’re not made with the environment in mind.

What are disposable vapes made of?

Most disposable vapes are made of a vape coil, a two ml vape tank which contains the vape ‘juice’ and a non-rechargeable lithium battery. All of this is held within a plastic outer casing. Disposable vapes usually contain Nicotine Salts too. These components make disposable vapes harder to recycle.

Why are they a problem?

Because of the lithium battery, disposable vapes can be quite tricky to recycle and the ever-increasing popularity of them makes this process even trickier. Around 4 million adults in the UK vaped in 2022 and around 52% of vapers said they used disposable vapes. More than 50% of these single use vapes are thrown away. According to Sky News, two vapes are being thrown away every second.

The contents of a disposable vape can cause harm if they encounter our environment or animals, making them hazardous. Because of their hazardous qualities, if they’re not disposed of correctly the contents can leak into the water. Due to the nicotine and other chemicals in them, they can cause huge environmental problems if they’re not recycled properly.

The coils and batteries in disposable vapes also contain precious metals that are currently in high demand. Each device contains a lithium-ion battery which just 0.15g of lithium. However, with the amount of vapes being disposed, around 10 tonnes of lithium is being sent to landfill. This is enough to power 1,200 electric cars.

With us looking to move more towards a greener future, lithium is the key. We’re currently throwing three million lithium batteries in the general waste bin each week. This means that resources are being thrown away instead of being reused and we’re losing out on precious resources.

A disposable vape that is hard to recycle
The batteries found in disposable vapes that make them difficult to recycle.

What’s the solution?

If you’re still looking to vape, the best solution is to switch to a rechargeable vape using e-liquids. These usually come in smaller plastic or glass bottles that can be recycled more easily with your household waste once they’ve been cleaned out.

When you’re done with your disposable vape, you can disassemble them to recycle each piece accordingly. The plastic or glass can be disposed of with your recycling. The batteries within the vapes can be recycled at a local recycling centre or a supermarket battery recycling bin.

There may be a brighter future in store for vapes. The batteries in vapes have caused wide discussion as to whether they come under WEEE waste. ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ regulations require companies that sell batteries to offer a ‘free take back’ of waste. These regulations are currently under review by the government.

What happens to vapes after they’re recycled?

Once you recycle your disposable vapes, they can then be made into a brand new product. We’ll help you recycle your old vapes into new materials. Once your old vapes have been collected, they’ll be sent to a facility. Here, the vapes are disassembled into their different components. The plastic casing from the disposable vapes are then shredded and placed into a waffle shaped machine with a blend of different hard plastics. Thermal energy is then used to compress the plastic together into a rigid plastic board. This can then be used as hoarding around scaffolding or even in slurry pits as an alternative to wood. Because a thermal process is used instead of a chemical one, this material can be reused again and again unlike wood which can only be recycled a few times.

Contact us

Need help recycling your WEEE waste? Our team of experts can help you find the best waste management solution for your business. We can help you recycle your waste electric goods in line with all regulations while diverting as much waste from landfill as possible. Get in touch to find out more.

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