North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has urged the government to ban the sale and manufacture of unnecessary and unsustainable single-use vapes on environmental grounds.
With more than half of the estimated 420,000 disposable vapes bought in north London every month* ending up in the bin or littering our streets, NLWA is growing increasingly concerned with their rising popularity.
Its Chair, Cllr Clyde Loakes, has written to the Secretary of State for Environment and Minister for Environment, explaining that the complex material composition of these products means that they will always be logistically difficult, labour intensive and expensive to recycle.
Vapes are also a major fire risk due to the lithium batteries inside them, while the nicotine they often contain is so damaging to the environment it has been used as a pesticide in the past.
In his letter, Cllr Loakes points out that the precious copper used in disposable vapes sold in north London each year could instead power more than 11 vital electrical vehicle charging stations**.
He has called on the government to show it is “committed to preserving resources and the environment for future generations” by enforcing a ban or – at the very least - making retailers and manufacturers responsible for managing vapes once they become waste.
Cllr Loakes said: “Single-use vapes are contributing to the fastest growing waste stream in the UK, destroying vital resources and polluting our planet.
“While we are clear that residents should take them to one of our eight reuse and recycling centres or use a take-back scheme, these are inconsistent despite the legal obligations in place.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the costs of recycling them, picking them up when they’ve been littered, or repairing vehicles and machinery which have been damaged by battery fires. We’re working with our contractors to see if we can set up more vape collection points - but the companies profiting should be the ones funding these.
“We must show we are serious about moving away from a dangerous throwaway culture by stopping all wasteful single-use products, especially when there are reusable alternatives so readily available.”
For more information on how to dispose of vapes, visit nlwa.gov.uk/reducereuserecycle/recycle/whatcanwerecycle/vape
*Research by Material Focus as part of an investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows that nearly 14 million single-use vapes are bought in the UK each month. North London Waste Authority manages 3% of the UK’s total waste.
** The research found that over 50% of single use vapes are thrown away, compared to 33% on average for all types of vapes.