There seems to be an electric version of everything these days. E-cigarettes and vape are the latest trends. Friends take him wherever he goes. He is always surrounded by hints of vanilla, peach or chocolate. These consumers are more stylish than traditional smokers, but they are creating a whole new stream of waste. Recyclers have yet to find the answer.
Although a relatively new market, the global e-cigarette and e-cigarette sector is already worth US$18.1bn (€18.6bn) in 2021 and is projected to reach US$22.4bn this year. The United States leads the market with sales of approximately US$7.5 billion. The global market he is estimated to grow by 30% by 2030.
On International E-waste Day, let’s take a moment to understand these statistics. Remember, we’re talking about a mostly disposable waste stream, including aroma and nicotine cartridges, metal mouthpieces, heating elements, and of course (lithium-ion) batteries. But sorry, one cartridge lasts about 200-400 puffs.
A friend of mine told me that his stock usually lasts a week or two. Then throw away the empty cartridge and buy a new one. In some cases, the entire coil also needs to be replaced.
In some EU member states you can buy liter bottles to refill empty containers. However, the Dutch government has banned those hoping to curb their nicotine addiction. can be argued to be ineffective while producing
Generally speaking, some people opt for reusable arcs, but single-use types are becoming more popular among younger and occasional users (festivals and parties).
Recent end-of-life figures show that nearly half of young users simply throw their e-cigarettes, especially the cheap ones, in the trash when they run out of steam. They cited the lack of clear recycling procedures and drop-off points as the main reasons.
Indeed, e-scrap and battery recyclers I know told me that e-cigarettes and e-cigarettes rarely show up on conveyor belts, despite the increasing volume. So many times I saw waste lining busy city streets and beaches. Perhaps an extended producer responsibility scheme is the best solution?
It is a well documented fact that traditional cigarette butts are the most commonly littered product in the world. An estimated 4.5 trillion are thrown away each year. Not only does it take 18 months to 10 years to decompose, it eventually decomposes into microplastics.
The modern version of this product is built to be unbreakable. This makes e-cigarette littering problematic in three ways. Plastic pollution, chemical pollution (nicotine and other chemicals), and discarded batteries. Above all, it’s a waste to let the metal inside dry out on the roadside.
Recyclers warn that it is important to separate at source for this particular e-scrap waste stream. It reduces the chances of “hidden” e-cigarettes cluttering landfills or, worse, causing recycling machinery to malfunction. There is also an explosion hazard. Producers claim the risk is low, but it’s best to be cautious about lithium-ion batteries.
This summer, an operator at a factory in Bedale, England, had his teeth shattered after an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. Imagine if something like that happened. The results can be disastrous.
Stuart Hayward-Higham, director of technology development at SUEZ UK, said: “If a vape battery is damaged and punctured during shipping, it can spontaneously ignite like fireworks.
We can only hope that this recycling challenge will be taken into account when building the large-scale battery recycling facilities announced for 2023 and beyond.
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