LARAC, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee, said the devices present a risk to collection crews as well as on waste infrastructure. The body said “the lack of established disposal or recycling routes for vapes leads to their improper disposal or littering.”
This comes after the Local Government Association called for the government to ban vapes last week (see letsrecycle.com story).
Cathy Cook, LARAC chair, said: “Under the UK’s WEEE regulations, vapes are placed in Category 7 – Toys, Leisure, and Sports Equipment. LARAC believes it is vital that vapes are assigned their own product category as they pose different challenges to dismantle and recycle compared to other WEEE in this category, particularly as they contain hazardous materials such as lithium and nicotine.
“In the meantime, there is little to no regulation on the producers of vapes. WEEE facilities in the UK have been making innovative yet crude attempts at dismantling vapes using bespoke steel dyes and labour-intensive processes that are not sustainable.”
LARAC went on to highlight the significant environmental threat posed by disposable (single-use) vapes when they are littered or incorrectly disposed of.
The organisation acknowledged the impact on local authorities, including safety concerns for collection crews and infrastructure. The presence of lithium-ion batteries in vapes further exacerbates the risk of fires in waste vehicles and facilities.
It also empathised the increasing use of disposable vapes among children as a major reason upon why the devices should be banned.
LARAC remarked that the rise in waste sector fires recently can be partly attributed to the surge in improperly discarded lithium-ion batteries from single-use vapes.
However, the body said local authorities face limited options for providing safe disposal routes for residents. Household waste recycling centres are often the only viable option, while alternative options are expensive for authorities to implement.
LARAC has also called on the Environment Agency to “hold all vape producers accountable” and ensure their compliance with the relevant schemes.
This would provide the necessary funds and means for local authorities to handle vapes efficiently and safely.