Desco calls for consumer incentives in vape disposal

June 20, 2024

Desco Electronic Recyclers is urgently calling on producers, sellers, and retailers to incentivise consumers to return used vapes and e-cigarettes for proper disposal. With over 95% of these products ending up in landfills, Desco stresses the critical need for baseline incentives to promote responsible recycling.

“We need rapid growth in accessible and visible vape recycling drop-off points and proper financing for genuine recycling solutions to recover materials,” said Desco director Giulio Airaga. “Until single-use vape producers, importers, and retailers comply with and finance their legal environmental responsibilities, calls for banning their sale will only grow stronger.”

Desco emphasises the need for consumer education on recycling single-use vapes, innovations to enhance recycling rates, compliance with current regulations, and investment in waste collection points both at point of use and point of sale. These measures are crucial for reducing the environmental impact of single-use vapes.

The improper disposal of e-waste, including vapes and e-cigarettes, poses severe environmental and health risks. These devices contain hazardous materials such as lithium-ion batteries, which can leak toxic substances if not handled correctly. This growing concern highlights the need for improved recycling infrastructure and public awareness campaigns.

“E-cigarettes are becoming an exploding waste stream,” he warns. “These products are easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, and often disposed of improperly. With less than 5% of the market likely recycling these products, it’s probable that over 95% end up in landfills. This is a major issue because they contain lithium-ion batteries.”

Research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) underscores the urgent need for better e-waste management practices. The CSIR study reveals that South Africa generates approximately 360,000 tons of e-waste annually, with a very small percentage being recycled.

Airaga emphasises the importance of incentivising consumers to return used vapes and e-cigarettes for proper disposal. “Producers, sellers, can ensure the responsible handling of these devices and mitigate their environmental impact.

Desco Electronic Recyclers calls on all stakeholders to take immediate action in establishing and promoting robust recycling programs. By working together, the industry can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of disposable vapes and e-cigarettes and move towards a more sustainable future.