Are Vapes Killing the Planet?

By Kate Connor (she/they)

To its users, vaping may, on the surface, have less obvious health impacts – but what about its environmental impact?

It seems like everyone has taken up vaping these days; you won’t walk down a street without seeing a fair few colourful vapes lying around, followed by a cloud of sweet vapour. Vaping is not a new pastime. In fact, vapes (or e-cigarettes) have existed since the early 2000s. It has just seen a spike in consumer interest these past five or six years.

Why is that?

Recent introductions of more readily available single-use vapes are the root cause of concern at the moment. There is also a ‘loophole’ in relevant government legislation which allows “free samples to be given to people of any age.” This encourages young teens to start earlier than perhaps they would have otherwise.

What are vapes?

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, come in a variety of different forms. There are many rechargeable devices; however, the most common at the moment must be the single-use vapes. Single-use vapes are made mostly from harmful plastics. Many devices are made from heavy metals, which, when leaked into the environment alongside battery acid and nicotine, pose a hazardous risk to plants and animals. Heavy metals are also toxic to inhale, so the leaks from the devices are harmful not only to the environment, but also to you.

A few years ago, there was an uproar, a shift in perspective, about single-use plastics. Shops introduced a tax on carrier bags, and many restaurants/cafes switched to paper straws. And yet, it seems odd that no one is too bothered about the impact of the single-use vapes that are so popular now.

How does it impact us?

According to a survey taken back in 2021, around 55 million adults said they used vapes regularly. Also, research suggests that 1.3 million single-use pods are thrown away every week, enough vapes to cover 22 football pitches every year. In addition, Sky News estimated that, in July 2022, UK vapers threw away around two disposables every second – that is a lot of waste!

Before you throw your vape on the ground, it is important to remember that plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose – that vape will still be there long after you’ve gone.

What can we do?

Try choosing a rechargeable vape over a disposable one – a rechargeable device can last six or seven months before needing replacing, as opposed to the average vape pen, which only lasts as little as 3-5 days, or even 1-2 days, depending on your smoking habits.

However, the most important thing to know is how to properly dispose of all the components of your vape. The majority of vapes can be recycled; vaping companies just don’t make it that obvious, but here’s how you can do it:

1 – Check the packaging for recyclable symbols.
2 – Disassemble the device.
3 – Clean it thoroughly.
4 – Separate materials into respective recycling bins.

Pitch given by Alyx Johnstone
Edited by Haneen AlEid & Theerada Moonsiri