Why vapes should be WEEE waste | Commercial Recycling News

Why we think vapes should be considered
WEEE waste

In recent years, the use of vapes has increased significantly, meaning that the number of vapes being disposed of has increased. It is estimated that 14 million single-use vapes are bought each month and 1.3 million are thrown away every week*.

With so many of these electronic devices being thrown away on a weekly basis, we need to be making sure that they are being disposed of safely. And if you are a business that sells vapes, or are in a sector where people use and dispose of vapes at your premises, safe disposal of these devices becomes your responsibility.

In this article we share why we think they should classify as WEEE waste, and how you might safely dispose of them.

What are vapes?

Vapes are electronic devices that enable people to inhale nicotine as a vapour rather than a smoke.

Vaping has attracted people as it doesn’t produce two of the most damaging elements produced by smoking cigarettes (tar or carbon monoxide), making them seem like a healthier alternative to smoking. Plus, you can get different flavours such as ‘cotton candy’ or ‘lemon tart’ which appeal to a younger audience not necessarily looking for a nicotine or tobacco hit.

What is WEEE Waste?

WEEE waste stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. It includes most products that have a plug or need a battery.

There are currently 10 categories of WEEE Waste:

  1. Large household appliances – e.g. fridges, freezers, cookers, microwaves, washing machines etc.
  2. Small household appliances – eg. vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, and clocks
  3. IT and telecommunications equipment – eg personal computers, copying equipment, telephones and pocket calculators
  4. Consumer equipment – eg radios, televisions, hi-fi equipment, camcorders and musical instruments
  5. Lighting equipment – eg straight and compact fluorescent tubes and high intensity discharge lamps
  6. Electrical and electronic tools – eg drills, saws and sewing machines, electric lawnmowers
  7. Toys, leisure and sports equipment – eg electric trains, games consoles and running machines
  8. Medical devices – eg (non infected) dialysis machines, analysers, medical freezers and cardiology equipment
  9. Monitoring and control equipment – eg smoke detectors, thermostats and heating regulators
  10. Automatic dispensers – eg hot drinks dispensers and money dispensers

Due to the ozone depleting substances often found in items that contain batteries, WEEE waste is classed as a hazardous waste stream, meaning that it needs to be disposed of at a licensed facility in the correct manner.

Importance of WEEE recycling

Recycling of WEEE waste is a legal requirement, so no electrical or electronic item should be going to landfill.

Electronic and electrical items are often made up of precious metals that are able to be recovered and reused for other items. When this is done, we save precious natural resources and also help to reduce the use of climate changing emissions.

If you are wanting to throw away anything with a battery, it is important that this is recycled because batteries are one of the biggest causes of waste fires in the UK, and often a fire is caused by a battery hidden in an electronic item.

Electronic or electrical items going to landfill or being fly tipped, can also affect the environment as metallic parts and nanoparticles can scrape off and find their way into surrounding bodies of water, or heavy metals can sink into the ground, contaminating underground water which can move to contaminate other pools of water.

Why should vapes be classified as WEEE Waste?

So why should vapes be considered as WEEE waste?

Well first of all the definition of WEEE waste mentions items that contain a battery. Since all vapes need a battery to work, when you dispose of the vape, you are also disposing of a battery. Therefore, they fit the criteria for WEEE waste.

As we mentioned above, batteries are a main cause of waste fires in the UK, which is why disposing of them in the correct manner is so important. If people are throwing vapes in with general waste, we are running the risk of more waste fires at landfill sites and recycling centres, and we are sure we don’t need to explain the hazards of fires!

Another reason why we believe vapes should be classed as WEEE waste is to encourage more recycling of the devices. Disposable vapes, while convenient, are not made with the environment in mind. Made from robust plastics and heavy metals they are a landfills nightmare.

If we introduce them to being WEEE waste, people will have to consider where and how they are disposing of their vapes, which can encourage people to dispose of them at a recycling centre. When disposed of at centres such as our recycling facilities in Somerset and Dorset, we can make sure that we are recycling as much of the materials used as possible, while disposing of the batteries safely.

How to dispose of WEEE waste

Current rules state that if you are a vendor of an electronic or electrical item, you must accept the product back to recycle. As it stands, vapes are not included in this regulation as they are not classified as WEEE waste.

If you have WEEE waste that you are wanting to dispose of, you have to take it to a licensed waste facility; our Canford Recycling Centre accepts all hazardous waste streams.

If you are in charge of waste management in an area where disposable vapes are used frequently, such as a pub, bar or even shopping centres and larger office blocks, it might be worth thinking about how you can separate these from other types of waste.

In order to dispose of them as WEEE waste, separate from your general waste and mixed recyclables, you could have a designated container to collect vapes in. Once you have a sizable collection you can then dispose of them at your local recycling centre. Our recycling facility in Canford is licensed to accept all WEEE waste, and will be able to take your collection vapes.

If you have further questions about disposing of vapes with us, call our friendly team on 01202 579579, or email us at enquiries@avonmaterialsupplies.co.uk.

*https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/vapes-to-feature-in-weee-review/

Let's work together