Disposable vapes ‘should be banned’ – warning billions dumped in UK

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Disposable vapes “should be banned” due to their damaging effects on the environment, a campaigner has said. Vaping has become increasingly popular in recent years, as people attempt to kick their smoking habits. However, a side effect of this is that a large number of incredibly addictive disposable vapes, which contain valuable lithium, are being discarded on UK streets. An environmental campaigner spoke to Express.co.uk about why she believes that these types of vapes should be banned. 

Climate PHD student, Laura Young, who styles herself as @LessWasteLaura told Express.co.uk said: “I think they should be banned.

“And the reason I say that is because there is an alternative – there are reusable vapes.

“I’m not trying to ban vaping, it’s about banning disposibility. And I think that makes sense because it fits in with the circular economy that we’re all trying to build. It fits in with avoiding single-use plastic, and with really avoiding waste.”

Disposable vapes contain lithium, a very valuable metal on which much of the high-tech economy depends. 

Research conducted by Sky News and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that people in the UK are throwing away around two disposable vapes every second.

The research also found that the number of discarded disposable vapes accounts for around 10 tonnes of lithium being sent to landfill every year – enough to make batteries for 1,200 electric cars.

Ms Young said she first noticed that disposable vapes were becoming a problem when she began to find more than 10 a day discarded on the street when she was out walking.

She said: “I’m finding 10 plus a day and It’s not like I’m going out looking for them.

“I’m just walking to uni, walking to the gym, and finding them everywhere.

“Finding ones that have been dropped, finding ones that are at the side of the road that have been run over and the battery is leaking everywhere.

“And although the litter is a big part of it, what they represent is just how many vapes are being sold and the precious metals that are being lost when they are thrown away.”

Ms Young raises awareness on her social media channels about the precious lithium that is used in the making of disposable vapes, urging users to see them not as just “fruity air” but as complex products. 

The environmental campaigner also encourages those who do use disposable vapes, to dispose of them properly by taking them to electronic recycling centres. 

Market research by Opinium for Material Focus, a non-profit recycling organisation, found that 18 percent of 4,000 people surveyed had bought a vape in the previous year.

Of those, 7 percent said they had bought a disposable device which suggests around 168 million disposable vapes are being bought annually in the UK.

Mark Miodownik, professor of materials and society at University College London said that disposable vapes ending up in landfill “is madness”.

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He said: “We can’t be throwing these materials away, it really is madness in a climate emergency.

“It’s in your laptop, it’s in your mobile phone, it’s in electric cars. This is the material that we are absolutely relying on to shift away from fossil fuels and address climate issues.”

Ms Young is currently working with her local MP in Dundee and a number of health and environmental organisations on a statement to put to the Scottish Government on the best way to tackle the issue of disposable vapes.

She said that so far her campaign has received lots of support, even from people who vape themselves, who she said have told her “I want to vape and I don’t want to do it in a disposable way. Let’s do it responsibly.”

Ms Young added: “Disposable vaping is such a new thing. It’s kind of come out of nowhere and it’s had real exponential growth. 

“Because it’s such a new phenomenon, there aren’t policies in place already that we can apply to these products.

“And that really means that we need to work hard and work fast to make sure that there’s not a really bad unintended consequence of something which was created to help people to stop smoking.”

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