Media release, 15 July 2022
New research commissioned by Material Focus, has identified that 1.3 million single-use vapes are thrown away every week, per annum this is enough to cover 22 football pitches. The number of vapes thrown away are contributing to the fastest growing waste stream in the UK with over 155,000 tonnes of electrical waste thrown away every year and 527 million electrical items hoarded in UK homes. The research was carried out as part of an investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The number of vapes bought is part of a growing phenomenon in the UK with half a billion now bought each year, with almost a fifth of UK adults having bought either a single-use, rechargeable, or rechargeable with a single-use chamber vape. The research has also identified that single use vapes are particularly problematic with nearly 14 million single-use vapes bought each month, rising to 167.5 million a year.
The research found that over 50% of single use vapes are thrown away, compared to 33% on average for all types of vapes. Single-use vapes are one of the most popular types of vapes to be bought alongside rechargeable vapes. 37% of people who bought vapes in the last year bought a single-use vape, and this increases to 52% for 18-34 year olds.
Vapes contain a range of materials which when thrown away the materials contained inside them are lost forever. Although vapes are covered in plastic, the lithium inside the battery forms a key material hidden inside the vapes. Each single-use vapes contains on average 0.15g of lithium and with over 1.3 million single-use vapes thrown away every week this accumulates to 10 tonnes of lithium a year, equivalent to the lithium in batteries inside 1,200 electric vehicles.
Scott Butler, Executive Director, Material Focus said: “Vaping is a growing phenomenon in the UK and over 50% of all single use vapes sold are needlessly being thrown away. This means that every week 1 million vapes are not recycled. We need to take urgent action now and ensure that they get recycled. You can find your nearest recycling point by visiting our recycle your electricals website.”
“Throwing away vapes means that we are throwing away some of the most precious materials on our planet. A key part of the problem is that vapes are advertised as disposable. Producers and retailers need to work together to ensure that they should make people aware that vapes should never be binned and instead be recycled. Recycling needs to be made easier and manufacturers and retailers can become part of the solution by adding collection points in-store.”
Summary of other key findings from the research:
All types of vapes (single use, rechargeable, rechargeable with a single use chamber)
Single use vapes
Rechargeable vapes with single use chamber
For more information on how to recycle vapes, and to find your nearest recycling point please visit https://www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk
Notes to Editors:
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Research – The research was conducted by Opinium. The sample size was 4,000 UK adults aged 18+ and research was run from 17th to 19th May 2022. Results were sent to a nationally representative sample and are also weighted to nationally representative figures of age, gender and region (taken from the ONS) to further ensure a nationally representative makeup.
About Material Focus and the Recycle Your Electricals campaign
Material Focus is a not-for-profit organisation whose goal is to stop the nation throwing away or hoarding all their old small electricals. Material Focus is delivering the UK-wide Recycle Your Electricals campaign. The campaign is revealing the value hidden in electricals and is making it easier for us all to recycle and reuse the small electricals we no longer need by providing more recycling points as well as providing practical information on how households can recycle.
The campaign is funded by producers of electrical appliances. The UK government sets annual targets for the recycling of all waste electricals, including small electricals. If producers of electrical appliances don’t meet this target, then they contribute towards a fund (WEEE Fund) which pays for a range of activities, including communications, behaviour change activities, increased recycling projects and research. Ultimately the aim is to support actions that will help the UK increase the levels of reuse and recycling of waste electricals.
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