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30. January 2024

Are bans on single-use e-cigarettes coming closer?

Vapes repeatedly set waste bins and collection vehicles on fire

There is movement in the discussion about banning single-use e-cigarettes. This is not only good news for the health of smokers. It is also a plus for safety.

The disposable e-cigarettes known as “vapes” are increasingly ending up in household waste. Short circuits in their lithium-ion batteries can cause them to self-ignite, resulting in repeated fires in waste vehicles and waste treatment plants. We reported on this topic back in November 2022.

After China, the motherland of e-cigarettes, which has already restricted the sale of the products, the British government, for example, now also wants to take action: Disposable e-cigarettes are to be banned there to protect minors. The aim is to combat the rise in consumption among young people and protect children’s health.

Around one in ten young people in the UK between the ages of 11 and 15 use e-cigarettes, according to a recent report. British health and environmental activists have therefore welcomed the government’s move, reports dpa from London. Parliament in London still has to approve the plan.

Consumption is also rising sharply in Germany

The trend towards e-cigarettes is also continuing unabated in Germany. In mid-September 2023, the ‘Bündnis für Tabakfreien Genuss’ (lobby für tobacco-free consumption) predicted a 40 per cent increase in sales compared to the previous year. According to the providers, this should amount to around 800 million euros. Around 30 per cent of this market is attributable to disposable e-cigarettes.

One of these so-called “disposables” costs between six and ten euros in Germany and contains around 600 puffs, the equivalent of two to three packets of cigarettes. Single-use e-cigarettes are therefore significantly cheaper than traditional cigarettes with tobacco.

According to many experts, the trend towards vapes is unhealthy, nonsensical and bad to the environment. In addition to the batteries, disposable vaporisers contain toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and lead. If disposed of incorrectly, these heavy metals can damage the health of humans, animals and plants and seep in the food chain and the environment. The amount of plastics caused by single-use e-cigarettes, which are usually filled with just two millilitres of liquid, also leaves environmental and recycling experts shaking their heads in despair.

After use, vapes usually end up where they don’t belong

Three years ago, studies in the UK showed that more than every second vape there ends up in household waste. An estimated 5 million disposable vapes are thrown away there every week – compared to 1.3 million last year. In Germany, too, disposable e-cigarettes are usually mistakenly thrown away in household waste, yellow bags and public waste bins after they have been used.

The right way to dispose of e-cigarettes

According to Germany’s Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act [ElektroG], used vapes must be handed in to a collection point that is permitted to accept waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Such collection points may be retailers or manufacturers who are obliged to take back WEEE free of charge. Local inhabitants can also take their used vapes to their local household waste recycling centre.

In order to make people more aware of how to dispose of their e-waste correctly, the EAR Foundation (a clearing house for WEEE) has launched its “Plan E” campaign already in 2022 with the support of the BMUV [Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection] and the UBA [Federal Environment Agency]. Besides providing information about recycling and the correct collection routes, people visiting this online portal can find out where their local WEEE collection points are located.

Waste management companies call for a ban

Raw materials contained in lithium-ion batteries are urgently needed, for example in the automotive industry. In light of the boom, Germany’s recycling industry is therefore calling for a ban on these disposable items. The industry association BDE sees single-use e-cigarettes as an “absolute waste of raw materials” and criticises the fact that politicians already had the power to ban ear buds and straws when it came to plastic. Now more than ever, a ban should succeed here.

The trend towards single-use products with batteries has long been a problem for waste management, whether it’s books or greetings cards containing mini speakers or disposable vapes. Fires occur time and again in recycling plants or collection vehicles. This problem is now being aggravated by disposable electronic cigarettes.

“There are almost ten million e-bikes on the roads in Germany alone. And I’m not sure whether even half of the owners of these bikes are aware of the risks posed by lithium-ion batteries. To say nothing of the huge volumes of old mobile phones, thermometers and single-use e-cigarettes. Damaged or broken batteries really are very dangerous.“

Robert Sonnenschein, Managing Director RETRON, in an interview with REMONDIS AKTUELL

Image credits: image 1: Adobe Stock: YarikL


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