Disposable vapes are wasting 90 tons of lithium batteries that could otherwise be used in electric vehicles (EVs) and solar panels. These handheld e-cigarettes, priced at around 9 dollars each, contain lithium batteries that are often disposed of after a single use, leading to environmental and resource concerns. The annual discarded lithium from disposable vapes in the United Kingdom alone is enough for 11,000 electric car batteries, impacting the potential for a sustainable energy transition.
Disposable vapes have become increasingly popular, especially among the younger demographic. Despite their convenience and various flavors, these devices pose environmental challenges due to their short lifespan and the valuable resources contained within them, particularly lithium batteries.
The lithium batteries used in disposable vapes are generally rechargeable but lack a charging port, resulting in them being discarded after just one use. This leads to a substantial loss of valuable resources, as each disposable vape contains enough lithium for approximately 11,000 electric car batteries.
Users who consume one disposable e-cigarette daily discard the equivalent of more than an iPhone battery each week. The study indicates that in the United Kingdom alone, two disposable vapes are discarded every second, amounting to the disposal of as many batteries as those used in 1,200 electric cars annually.
While manufacturers claim that their products are recyclable, studies show that approximately half of disposable vape users in the UK dispose of their devices in regular waste bins. In the United States, only 15 percent of young people surveyed in 2020 reported proper disposal methods, such as returning devices to a vape shop or an electronic waste collection.
The environmental impact and inadequate disposal rates have prompted calls for a ban on disposable vape devices. Some regions and countries, such as Bayern in Germany and local governments in the United Kingdom, are advocating for such bans. Australia has recently prohibited all e-cigarettes except for those designated for smoking cessation. In Austria, 83 percent of the population supports a ban on disposable e-vapes.
The European Union has taken steps to address the issue through a new battery regulation aimed at prolonging battery lifecycles, reducing CO2 emissions from battery production, and promoting increased recycling. From 2027 onwards, disposable vapes, as currently designed, will not be allowed for sale within the EU.
To prevent the loss of valuable resources in disposable e-cigarettes, efforts are needed to raise awareness about proper disposal methods. Andreas Opelt, Vice President of the Association of Austrian Waste Management Companies, emphasizes the importance of recycling every battery, regardless of its location in products.
As the market for disposable e-cigarettes continues to grow, urgent measures are necessary to address the environmental and resource concerns associated with their usage. Increasing public awareness, implementing proper disposal methods, and regulatory interventions are crucial to mitigate the wastage of lithium batteries and facilitate a sustainable approach towards energy transition.
Nature has always been my thing since I was a kid. I grew up surrounded by it, and it made me care deeply about keeping it safe. After studying Environmental Science and Journalism, I set out to uncover the big stories about what’s happening to our environment.