The U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) is calling upon its members and the wider industry to innovate products that make them easier to recycle for the waste management sector.
The move comes as pressure mounts to ban single-use disposable devices.
On Jan. 3, upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose announced a complete withdrawal from the single use vapes market. “Selling single use vapes is not something we could justify given the impact on both the environment and the health of young people,” said Commercial Director Charlotte Di Cello.
While environmental campaigners applauded the move, vaping advocates said Waitrose could do more to protect both public health and the planet by instead refusing to sell combustible cigarettes, which are the world’s most littered item.
Just five days later, Scottish Ph.D. student Laura Young made national headlines in the U.K. when a video she posted on Twitter of her collecting 55 discarded disposable vapes while out walking her dog went viral.
Young, who goes by the Twitter handle @LessWasteLaura, gained public support when she posted two more follow-up posts and called for single-use vapes to be banned.
Following the publicity surrounding her anti-disposable campaign, the Scottish government said it was “considering the emerging issues around single-use disposable vapes’ and urged consumers to dispose of them responsibly.”
According to the UKVIA, as campaigns like this gain traction, it may be only a matter of time before regulators decide to look closer at the disposable sector of the vape market.
UKVIA Director-General John Dunne said that while the vaping industry recognizes its responsibilities to the environment, the recycling of vapes requires collaboration between adult vapers, retailers, manufacturers, the regulators and companies in the waste management sector, which are involved in the current producer compliance schemes under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations.
“Up to now, there has been genuine confusion amongst the vaping sector about their responsibilities under the WEEE directive,” said Dunne in a statement. “Earlier this year, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment alluded to uncertainty around whether regulations covered the type of batteries found in vapes and also questioned the recycling infrastructure in place to support the sector to be more sustainable.
“This is why we are working hard as an industry to find a waste management solution that minimizes the impact of vapes on the environment, particularly when it comes to single-use disposables, so they are seen for what they do best—helping adult smokers kick their habits and save the lives of millions as well as millions of pounds for the health service.”