The government described its scheme, launched on Tuesday (11 April) as a “world first”. It will see one million smokers encouraged to swap cigarettes for vapes as part of efforts to reduce smoking rates from 13% to 5% or less by 2030.
However, this was met with alarm by large parts of the waste sector who have been highlighting in recent months and years the fire risk of vapes.
Material Focus’s research has showed that “at least” 1.3 million disposable e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are thrown away every week. Residents are supposed to take vapes to a recycling centre, as vapes can explode when put into a refuse collection vehicle or treatment infrastructure.
A number of fires have already been reported with vapes as the cause.
We believe ministers are playing with fire with this policy
Today (14 April), the BMRA warned that the government scheme poses a fire risk because the current regulations for disposal of both single-use and rechargeable vapes are often not being followed and are leading to an increasing number of blazes.
James Kelly, chief executive of the BMRA, said: “ Vapes are essentially small electronic devices and are subject to regulations when no longer required. However, the reality is that not enough of the public are aware of this and often throw vapes and other electronic items containing lithium-ion batteries in a bin, which, when damaged, are causing fires and can even explode.
“That’s why the BMRA is concerned about this scheme. We believe ministers are playing with fire with this policy and that an awareness and education campaign is urgently needed.
“We are reiterating our call for lithium-ion batteries, alongside waste electrical and electronic equipment, to be able to be collected in a kerbside collection to ensure ease of disposal for householders.
“We also need to see a system for appropriate, on-the-go disposal of vapes being made available. This will help to protect workers from fires and explosions caused by these batteries and ensure all component parts can be safely and properly recycled.”
The BMRA has been calling for increased government action on the issue. Last year, it called for the government to ban households from putting single use vapes in recycling or residual waste bins due to an “ever-increasing number of fires” (see letsrecycle.com story).
In January, the government confirmed that it will consider changes to ensure the vaping sector “plays its part” in financing the collection and treatment of their products as part of the upcoming review of the WEEE regulations (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Environment Agency also has also said whole vapes must not be incinerated (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Agency explained that all treatment facilities must operate in compliance with their permit, which includes a condition that Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques are used.
Disposable vapes have risen in popularity in recent years as a smoking alternative.
Inside the last year or so there has been a huge spike in disposable ‘vapes’. Often, these provide users with around 600 ‘puffs’ and are marketed as being disposable.