Five million single-use vapes discarded each week, research finds

New research has found that five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week in the UK  (Shutterstock / Natali Brillianata)
New research has found that five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week in the UK (Shutterstock / Natali Brillianata)

Five million disposable vapes are thrown away each week in the UK, new research has found.

According to research carried out by non-profit organisation Material Focus, UK adults buy approximately 30 million vapes a month.

The research also showed that just 17 per cent of vapers dispose of their vapes in the correct recycling bins.

Each vape contains copper wires and lithium batteries, making them potentially dangerous if not disposed of correctly.

The organisation estimates that all the vapes thrown away could provide batteries for 5,000 electric cars.

Scott Butler, the executive director at Material Focus, said the “problem with single-use vapes has gotten further out of control” since they conducted research last year.

“Single-use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging and dangerous consumer product ever made,” he added.

Not only are the vapes an environmental hazard, but it is estimated that the potential cost of collecting and recycling vapes is £200 million – although by law, every shop that sells the item is meant to take them back.

“Very few producers and retailers comply with environmental regulations and put recycling points and systems in place.

“This all means that too often local authorities are being burdened with the major operational and financial headaches associated with what is now the fastest growing and most dangerous waste stream in the UK, single-use vapes,” Mr Butler added.

“Until single-use vape producers, importers and retailers act to genuinely comply with and finance their legal environmental responsibilities then the calls for banning the sale of them will only strengthen.”

Material Focus surveyed 5,156 UK adults and 167 16- and 17-year-olds between June and August.

Earlier analysis by the Standard found that just 10.1 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24 regularly smoked cigarettes in 2022 – a drop of 10.7 per cent on the figure reported in 2011 – driven by a rise in vaping.

A total of 15.5 per cent of Britons aged between 16-24 identified as daily or occasional e-cigarette users in 2022, compared with 11.1 per cent the year before. This increase was particularly significant among women in the age group, with a fourfold jump in vaping rates between 2021 and 2022.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The government is very concerned about the environmental impacts of disposable vapes and will shortly publish a response to its call for evidence on vaping, which closed in June.

“All electrical waste should be properly disposed of and recycled to protect our environment – this includes disposable vape pens.

“Our environmental improvement plan sets out our plan to review rules for waste electricals this year. As part of this, we will consider what changes in legislation are needed to ensure the vaping sector foots the bill for the collection and treatment of their used products.”