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Vape Recycling

Vape Recycling: A Guide

Brands might call them “disposable vapes”, but that’s a misnomer. While you might only use cartridges once, they still contain salvageable materials, and some are worth quite a bit of money. 

For this reason, the vape recycling trend is taking over. People want to vape and take care of the environment simultaneously. 

This guide explains why vape recycling matters for the environment. Then, it describes how and where to recycle vapes. By the end, you will know how and when to recycle these products, and how you could benefit. 

Why Vape Recycling Matters For The Environment

Everyone knows recycling paper cups and plastic straws matters for the environment. But vape recycling does, too (particularly now it is becoming more popular). Individuals who avoid throwing their vape pens into landfills are doing their bit to protect the planet. 

But how?

Reduces Plastic Pollution

Reducing plastic pollution is the most visible reason vape recycling matters for the environment. Multiple components, including the outer shell of some brands, are made of plastic. Recycling facilities can break these off, shred them, and turn them into new polymers for input into building materials, such as reinforced concrete foundations. 

Whenever this process occurs, it prevents plastic from entering landfills or the oceans. Manufacturers lock the material into new products, preventing it from escaping into the environment. 

Reduces Electronic Waste

Recycling also reduces electronic waste from vapes – the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. Recyclers can break down circuit boards, battery cells, and coils into their raw form as inputs for new processes in the production cycle. 

Again, recycling these prevents waste from entering landfills where it can leach harmful substances into the soil and groundwater. Manufacturers can render many of the elements safe for reuse or disposal. 

Saves Precious Resources

Recycling vape sticks also conserves several high-value and recyclable materials. Manufacturers can liberate them as inputs in new processes (instead of relying on virgin materials).

For example, recycling facilities can extract lithium from vape pens, a critical component of some batteries. Recycling ensures proper handling while forming a valuable input into multiple production processes. 

Recycling facilities can also liberate the nickel used in vape pen coils and housing for reuse elsewhere in the economy, including batteries, building components, and jewellery. The same applies to the copper in vape pens’ circuitry and wiring. This metal is in high demand in computer circuitry, power lines, and premium interior fittings. 

Saving these precious resources reduces reliance on mining and extraction – two energy-intensive industries. It also preserves the Earth’s limited metal resources for use by future generations and promotes the circular economy – the only sustainable economic model. 

Safely Handles Hazardous Materials

Finally, recycling vapes facilitates the safe handling of materials. Recyclers can render the lithium in battery cells inert, preventing it from starting fires once in the ground. 

How To Recycle Vapes

Vape recycling is relatively new (because brands only introduced products recently). However, you can still recycle most vape pen components in the UK if you know what to do.

Here’s how: 

Safety Precautions: Before Dismantling

It is important to proceed with caution if you choose to take your vaping device apart. Always prioritise your own safety and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the proper tools to avoid damage to the components or to yourself. 

Make sure the device is turned off and, if possible, remove the battery to minimise the risk of electric shock. Ensure that you have gloves and eye protection available, and remember to work on a hard, flat surface.

Remember

If any part of the process seems unclear, it’s best to seek expert help. Disassembling your vape without proper expertise can lead to permanent damage or serious injury.

Also, the entire vaping unit can be recycled as it is, meaning you don’t have to take it apart piece by piece.

Now that we have covered the safety precautions, it's time to dive into the steps of the vape recycling process.

Step 1: Disassemble Your Device

The first step is to disassemble your vape device. Taking it apart and breaking it into its constituent components lets you send parts to various recycling specialists. 

Start by removing the battery safely. Use online resources or consult a professional to find out how to do this without hurting yourself. Most batteries won’t suddenly discharge (unlike capacitors). 

Once you remove the case, separate the components including the atomiser, tank, and mouthpiece. Depending on your area, you can recycle some of these, but not always all. 

Step 2: Dispose Of The Vape Battery

The next step is to dispose of the vape battery. Most supermarkets, civic centres and recycling facilities have repositories or bins for these. 

If the battery is rechargeable, local recycling centres may attempt to reuse it. If it is not, they will use processes to remove the harmful components. 

Step 3: Separate Remaining Components By Material Type

After disposing of the cell, separate the remaining components by material – i.e. plastic, metal, and electronic components. Then, look for recycling facilities in your area that will process these. 

Most UK councils will collect plastic and metal waste with normal recycling. Electronic waste may require special collection or disposal at a local centre (discussed in the next section). 

Most e-liquid bottles are straightforward to recycle. Simply remove them from the device and wash them to remove traces of nicotine. Then, seal them and put them in your household recycling bin (if made of glass). 

You can’t usually recycle pipettes made of composite materials (such as glass and plastic). Unfortunately, these will have to go in the bin. 

If your vape kit or mod has a built-in battery, drop it off at your local electronics recycling facility. These can break them down into their constituent parts and render them safe. 

Where To Recycle Vapes

The most challenging aspect of recycling vapes is knowing where to recycle them. Your options will vary depending on where you live. 

Disposable vapes are the most challenging to recycle. Some UK vape shops have collection bins but you will need to see if they have a take-back programme. 

Generally, manufacturers recommend against disassembling their devices. If you decide to take them apart, research how to do it safely. 

For refillable vape mods, check if your local council accepts small “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment” (WEEE) and your local household waste recycling centre. These facilities have special processes that allow them to render these components safe (and sometimes salvage materials for use elsewhere).

For vape batteries, look for recycling points in supermarkets and electronics stores. These often have bins the council collects periodically, providing a convenient location for safe cell disposal. 

Lastly, you can check online to see recycling points for various components in your local area. Council websites provide information on nearby drop-off locations. 

Vape Recycling Regulations 

Vape recycling regulations are catching up to vape pens’ growing popularity. The UK government is introducing laws to prevent more vapes from entering landfill or emitting dangerous chemicals into the environment. 

New regulations came into force at the start of 2024. These state retailers must offer recycling facilities for vapes on a one-for-one basis. For example, if a customer buys two vape pens, stores must provide recycling for two pens. 

Most stores supply a designated bin (as discussed above) for this purpose, where customers can place their spent devices. However, some require customers to provide proof of purchase and hand vapes to staff directly. 

Before the new regulations, retailers selling less than £100,000 of vapes annually could partake in the Distributor Takeback Scheme (DTS), showing customers where they could recycle their electricals. However, the new regulations remove vape devices from the DTS and require stores to provide a way for customers to recycle them. Retailers must now indicate to customers (as a poster or online banner) that they accept in-store vape pen recycling. 

Vape Pen Recycling Best Practices

As we have seen, vape pen recycling is complicated. Therefore, always follow best practices to avoid causing environmental harm. 

Here are some best practices for vape pen recycling: 

 

  • - Separate batteries whenever possible. Batteries require different processing from other components. Including them in general recycling puts them at risk of re-entering the environment through this channel or preventing the recycling of your used unit.
  • - Put safety first. Lithium-ion batteries are fire hazards and can ignite if damaged or disassembled incorrectly. Always separate them from the rest of the vape pen first.
  • - Look for designated bins. Sometimes you need to recycle vape pen components separately. However, most areas have designated bins where you can dispose of the entire product (in vape stores especially). These save you hassle and are safer than alternatives.
  • - Don’t litter or throw your vape pen in the regular bin. Throwing used vape pens out of the car window or putting them in public bins is a big no-no. Regular disposal risks harming the environment and local ecosystem (including birds, fish, and other wildlife).
  • - Use recycling programmes. Companies like TerraCycle offer mail-in vape pen recycling schemes allowing UK residents to bring waste to various drop-off locations for a free recycling service. Users simply sign up on TerraCycle’s website to benefit.
  • - Check whether local councils recycle vape pens’ metal parts. Local authorities should indicate if they accept vape pen components under small WEEE on their websites.
  • - Don’t put vape components in recycling bins. Regular recycling facilities can’t process these components. 

Now You Know How To Recycle Vape Pens

Reading this, you should better understand how to recycle vape pens. Getting it right protects the environment and makes vaping more sustainable for everyone. 

The recyclability of vape pens is increasing over time as the government introduces new regulations and councils improve their facilities. Most areas in the UK now have viable options requiring minimal effort on your part, which is good news for the industry as a whole. 


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