How to Dispose of Vapes – Are They Recyclable?

Disposable vapes

Single-use vapes are the latest craze that look like they’re going to stick around.

Which is not great news for the environment as many people don’t know how to safely dispose of vapes and aren’t sure whether they can be recycled.

Well, we’ve created this handy guide to ensure the UK are correctly disposing of disposable vapes in 2024.

Table of contents

Vape Disposal Statistics 2024

  • In 2023, 69% of vapes used by UK citizens are disposable. Up from 52% in 2022, and just 7% in 2021. The most popular brand is Elf Bar followed by Lost Mary.

  • 138 million disposable vapes were sold in 2022 in the UK – containing enough lithium for about 1,200 electric vehicle batteries. And this number is growing in 2023.

  • Over 1.3 million disposable vapes are ending up in landfill each week in the UK.

  • Around 2 vapes are thrown away every second in the UK.

  • Only 30% of vapes are recycled.

  • UK vape waste causes around 59,650 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year which whilst being a lot actually only makes up 0.66% of global vape CO2 emissions which stands at 9 million tonnes.
vape disposal statistics infographic

Can You Recycle Disposable Vapes?

Yes! You can recycle disposable vapes.

But shockingly hardly anyone knows that and so millions of recyclable vapes are thrown into general waste bins and end up in landfill.

The most common way to recycle vapes is to place them in Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) bins at recycling centres.

They are then transported to treatment facilities where they are cleaned and broken into various materials so each can be recycled.

  • The lithium-ion is taken for battery recycling

  • Any glass component (depending on the brand) undergoes glass recycling

  • And the coil can be recycled with other metals

The cotton wick can’t be recycled, however, due to it being contaminated beyond recovery.

Where to Recycle Disposable Vapes

These are the 3 most common ways to recycle disposable vapes:

  • You can recycle your vapes at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) using their WEEE bins

  • Most vape shops will also have dedicated bins for used vapes that you can use

  • And finally, in the UK, any electronic stores over 400 square metres must accept the return of used small WEEE items such as vapes for free

Are Disposable Vapes Safe?

Disposable vapes are deemed to be safe for use and are no worse than their reusable counterparts.

There are fears of them ‘blowing up’ or causing health issues but they’re no different to regular vapes.

That doesn’t mean they’re a good thing, however, regular vapes are quite bad for your health.

Furthermore, if disposable vapes aren’t disposed of correctly then the chemicals inside can be harmful to the environment.

And there have been cases where they have caused fires at landfill sites.

How to Dispose of Disposable Vapes

Single-use vapes should be recycled!

They shouldn’t just be chucked into your general waste bins where they’ll end up going to landfill or incinerated.

Disposable vapes should be disposed of safely by taking them to WEEE recycling facilities or drop-off locations.

Whilst these vapes are recyclable, do not put them into your recycling bins, as they need to be recycled in a particular way with other electrical items.

refulling a vape pen

Can You Put Vapes in the Bin?

You should not put vapes, disposable or rechargeable into the general waste or recycling bin.

If at home, you should keep them in a separate container and drop them off at a WEEE bin at your local Household Waste Recycling Centre.

Alternatively, try a vape shop as they will likely have dedicated bins.

If you’re a business that needs to dispose of used vapes (probably a rare case) then you should arrange for safe disposal from a waste management company.

Are Disposable Vapes Bad for the Environment?

Yes, disposable vapes are bad for the environment for numerous reasons.

In addition to hardly any of them being successfully recycled (largely due to consumer behaviour), their use of lithium-ion has a significant impact on the environment.

Lithium-ion is a highly sought-after rare material with demand set to increase by 500% by 2023 due to its use in electric vehicle batteries.

The reason lithium-ion is bad for the environment (and therefore disposable vapes’ use of it) is that it takes a considerable amount of energy, water, and other resources to mine.

The stresses it places on the environment to mine the material needs to be assessed appropriately.

For electric vehicles, it’s probably justified since this will replace petrol and diesel.

However, for an item that’s purely for pleasure and actually harms the user? Well, the case for their existence isn’t particularly compelling.

In fact, to show you how wasteful vapes are. In the US alone, 150 million vapes are thrown away which contain enough lithium to build around 6,000 Tesla vehicles.

Vape Litter

One aspect of disposable vape waste that no one has really talked about is the packing litter that comes along with e-cigarettes.

Many adults often buy vapes on nights out from corner shops and whilst they tend to dispose of the larger packaging elements like the box and inner pouch in a bin, often many discard the rubber seals and stickers on the street.

This causes a fair amount of needless litter.

Due to their meteoric rise in popularity, at Waste Managed, we believe strongly that the UK government should invest in and deploy dedicated public vape bins in city centres so that more vapes are successfully recycled, consumers can become more educated, and our streets are kept cleaner.

Which are the Worst? Cigarettes or Vapes?

In terms of health and the environment cigarettes still remain far worse than vapes (disposable or otherwise).

But the best way to describe them is that they are the lesser of two evils.

Health Reasons

In addition to its association with severe ailments like lung disease, heart disease, and stroke, tobacco smoke contains toxins that can lead to various other serious illnesses.

However, when compared to cigarette smoking, vaping presents users with significantly lower exposure to toxins.

Moreover, vapes do not generate tar or carbon monoxide, which are two highly detrimental substances found in tobacco smoke.

Environmental Reasons

Cigarettes have a significantly more detrimental impact on the environment compared to vapes.

Here are the key reasons:

  • Non-biodegradable cigarette butts: Cigarette butts, which take 10+ years to break down, are widespread pollutants. The large number of smokers discarding thousands of butts annually contributes to the accumulation of non-biodegradable waste.
  • Deforestation: The production of cigarettes leads to deforestation, with an estimated 15 packs of cigarettes representing the loss of one entire tree. This not only reduces oxygen production but also contributes to increased carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
  • Climate change: Tobacco companies produce trillions of cigarettes each year, resulting in the release of millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Switching from smoking to vaping helps reduce carbon emissions and aids in mitigating the effects of global climate change.
  • Chemical pollution: Cigarettes contain over 5,000 chemicals, which are released into the air during combustion and contribute to pollution. The chemicals present in cigarettes and their leaching butts contaminate roads, parks, gardens, and waterways.
girl smoking a vape

Are Disposable Vapes Being Banned in the UK?

Disposable vapes are not currently banned in the UK.

However, the government has announced plans to ban them in the near future.

Any vapes containing nicotine are banned for anyone aged under 18 years old.

Why is Glastonbury Banning Vapes?

Glastonbury is not actually ‘banning’ vapes.

Instead, they have advised festival-goers to not bring them, nor will they sell them on-site, due to the negative impact on the environment and the potential for fires caused at waste treatment centres.

Summing up

  • The amount of vapes sold each year is growing rapidly

  • Disposable vapes are recyclable

  • You should dispose of vapes at WEEE bins at Household Waste Recycling Centres

  • Vape shops may have dedicated bins you can use to discard vapes

  • Cigarettes are still far worse for your health and the environment

  • But disposable vapes are still harmful to the environment

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