Adieu to the disposable vape, you won’t be missed
We’ve now got to the stage of parenting where all three kids make their own way to school, erasing the natural boundary between breakfast and work. So, after the last child left the house this morning, the Prof suggested we go for a short plod along the river in the drizzle before hitting our respective desks. As is my want, I picked up a few pieces of plastic litter as I went, the last of which was a disposable vape.
This was very fitting as the UK Government today announced a ban on disposable vapes, citing child health worries. While clearly healthier than cigarettes, vapes contain huge quantities of nicotine and lack the acrid taste, leading to a fast rise in child users with legion stories of kids getting the shakes at school due to withdrawal.
However the Government is using environmental legislation to ban disposable vapes as it can be implemented more easily. And the loudest cheers will come from the recycling industry where, according to Zurich Insurance, the lithium batteries from disposable vapes caused 125 fires in 2022 – along with 123 house fires.
But the main reason why I am happy about this news this morning is from a circular economy point of view. Zurich say 3 vapes are chucked away every second in the UK, with three quarters going in the general waste – this adds up to 10 tonnes of lithium lost every year, enough for 1,250 electric car batteries or a whopping 250,000 ebike batteries. If lithium supplies become the limiting factor in the electrification of transport, why on earth are we chucking it away in these quantities?
But now I have to find out where my nearest vape recycling bin is, to make sure this one at least ends up in the right place.
Update: So, I google where my nearest vape recycling point is and find it’s my nearest Tesco Express. We need a few bits and pieces for dinner anyway, so I get my cagoule on and head out into the rain. At the door to the store, I ask the security guard where the vape recycling bin is. He looks a bit confused but goes and asks the cashier who tells me it’s behind the counter and takes the vape off me. I don’t see any signage for this whatsoever – how many people are going to jump through all those hoops? I’m actually surprised the recycling rate is as high as 25%.