Vaping and the Environment
Is vaping good or bad for the environment? We investigated the rumours to get to the truth.
We have all heard the rumours that vaping is bad for the environment by now, but how much truth is in them? Admittedly, vaping causes more plastic waste than not vaping, but one could say the same thing about eating, drinking, and any hobby or pastime.
Today, we explored the effect vaping has on the environment. We compared vaping to cigarettes from an ecological viewpoint, and discuss fumes, batteries, and disposable vapes. Let’s start with vape waste. What exactly is it and how can we do something about it?
What is Vape Waste?
Vape waste is the new nickname that environmentalists have coined to cover the discarded materials from vaping. The following things are vape waste:
- Empty vape juice/e-liquid bottles
- Discarded coils
- Disposable vape devices
- Pods from pod vapes
- Dud batteries
- Old devices
- Packaging related to vaping
There is concern regarding the disposal of vape juices, too. Some theorise that it will not disappear in the waterways. To be extra safe that we dispose of it correctly, we should treat excess vape juice like we treat oil when we dispose of it. We’ll talk more about safe disposal shortly.
While vape waste is a problem, how does it compare with the waste caused by cigarettes? You may not know this, but cigarette ends are the most common form of plastic waste on the planet. Let’s find out what other ways vaping may be better for the environment than smoking.
Is Vaping as Bad as Cigarettes for the Environment?
Asides from the estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette ends polluting our environment, vaping is less harmful than smoking in other ways. So far, scientists haven’t found any evidence of second-hand vaping, while second-hand smoking is a recognised health condition. This is because smoking emits more than 7,000 chemicals per cigarette.
E-cigarettes only contain nicotine, flavourings, and either glycol or glycerine. In any patches of outbreaks of lung problems caused by vapes, the authorities have been able to pinpoint exactly where it came from and what caused it.
An outbreak of lung damage in the USA was traced to a chemical used in a bad batch of cannabis vape pens. The pens contained Vitamin E Acetate – something already banned in vape juice here in the UK. In another incident, speculation from the media theorised that vape users might develop ‘popcorn lung.’ while this could actually happen, it wouldn’t happen in the UK because the ingredient that causes it is similarly banned. Want to know more about vaping? Check out these 5 informational facts about vaping then decide to make the switch from cigarettes.
Back to cigarettes. As well as emitting over 7k chemicals per lit cigarette, those toxins soak up into the butts, which end up in our soil and rivers. Cigarettes are responsible for massive deforestation in warmer climes too. Not only do manufacturers need to clear large areas of land for planting tobacco, but they also need trees to produce the paper that makes the cigarettes. Environmentalists estimate that one tree creates paper enough for 300 cigarettes. We all know someone who could get through 300 cigarettes in a fortnight.
Now, vaping does produce waste from plastic packaging. The batteries are a problem, and the existence of single use vapes needs to cease. Otherwise, it isn’t vape pens that are clogging up our waterways. We use them over and over again. They have about the same waste output as your mobile phone if we discount the vape juice bottles. While tobacco companies seem quick to point out that vape waste is a big problem, one rechargeable vape pen has nowhere near the same output of waste as smoking 10-20 cigarettes per day.
But Cigarettes Don’t Have Batteries, What About Those?
Which brings us back to the same worn argument we hear repeatedly: that it is the batteries in rechargeable e-cigarettes that make them environmentally unethical. This is because cigarettes don’t use batteries, but vape devices do. The batteries they use are lithium-ion batteries, the same as those found in your mobile phone and in your electric car.
The problem with lithium-ion batteries is twofold. One, it costs more to recycle a lithium-ion battery than it does to buy a new one in the current economic climate. This will not always be the case. This is only the case because of point two: that we pay the miners who dig the cobalt for the batteries out of the ground in peanuts. These miners are working in completely unsafe conditions, digging cobalt out of the ground with picks and their bare hands. Since some of the mines are in third world countries, there is very little we can do to change how this works.
A sceptic might even suggest that there is little economic benefit to we here in the west to change things. That’s why it is so important that we raise awareness of their horrendous working conditions and shine a worldwide spotlight on the harshness of the mines. You find cobalt mines in Russia, Canada, and Australia. You can also find mines in Cuba, the Republic of Congo. and the Philippines.
Regardless of the cost of the metals inside the batteries, we cannot discount the fact that real battery acid is potentially much worse. You cannot dispose of it in case it leaks into the water table. It is not recyclable. We must dispose of real batteries under hazardous waste conditions. Rechargeable batteries are a marked improvement on what came before. We can theorise that the system will improve as time passes. We can also point out that nobody seems annoyed about the lithium-ion in their phones, but when placed in electric vehicles and tobacco products, some big brands are lightning quick to protest their viability.
Recycling Centres Can Be Found Across the UK
Just because it costs more to mine fresh stuff than it does to recycle them, doesn’t mean that we don’t try. Countries who have agreed to lower emissions will make a dedicated effort to recycle old burned out vape device batteries. They are recyclable. You need to take them to your local recycling centre, which you can find throughout the UK.
If you want to lessen the impact you have as a vape user on the environment, then you ought to consider doing away with disposables. These are the least eco-friendly way to vape. We will talk about what else you can do to become an eco-friendly vaper in a moment.
How About Bottles and Cartridges?
Bottles and cartridges are both recyclable. Although they do have a carbon cost, we can reuse them again. This is still better than a cigarette, which we use once and disposed of. Each cigarette contains plastic waste. Vape bottles and cartridges are at least recyclable by comparison.
Interested in picking up new vape juice? Here is the list of all e-liquid flavours that we currently have.
What Can Be Done?
If you can, switch from cigarettes to a vape device as soon as you can. This will mitigate some of the waste that you incur when you smoke cigarettes. Take a look at our vape kits collection, we have almost thirty products that you can check.
Here are some ways you can be an eco-friendly vape user.
Safe disposal of Vape Juice
We should treat vape juices like oil. Don’t flush them or wash them away. Soak up excess e-liquid with a sheet of kitchen roll, then recycle the bottles. Pod kits come with pods which we can treat similarly.
Recycling of Parts
Coils and mechanical parts of your vape – including the batteries – can all go to your local recycling plant. Your local council can usually facilitate this. You can search for your nearest recycling centre on Google. You can find recycling centres throughout the UK and can take all manner of goods and parts.
Switching to rechargeable
Where you can, avoid single use vapes. These don’t hold much e-liquid and cost the most to produce in terms of plastic. They are more wasteful than other types of vape. Although the rechargeable batteries do use mining to get their components, they are better than battery acid and much less harmful than cigarettes.
Using Bigger Products
Bigger bottles hold more liquid and are therefore better for their carbon cost. Similarly, bigger vape devices come with longer lasting batteries and consistent power. Sub ohm devices will use more energy than pod or M2L devices, but the battery pack will last a longer time.
Further Information on Being an Environmentally-Conscious Vape User
We have another article that details how you can become an environmentally conscious vape user. Spreading awareness of these issues is half the battle, so be sure to share the information around. Lastly, remember that all actions on this planet have a carbon cost. If we are responsible in our actions, those costs are minimal. Environmentalists aren’t trying to ruin our fun; they’re trying to prolong the planet so that we can continue to have fun on it for years to come.