Oxfordshire vape disposal initiative is one of over 40 UK projects to receive funding as part of a wider drive to facilitate electrical recycling
Thursday, 14 December 2023, Kerry Taylor-Smith
Material Focus estimates that 7.7 million single-use vapes are bought per week in the UK but only 17% of vapers recycle them
Three Oxfordshire councils have made it easy to recycle single-use vapes by establishing recycling points in public spaces across the county as part of the Recycle Your Vapes campaign.
Nearly five million disposable single-use vapes are discarded per week – 80,000 in Oxfordshire alone. A lack of recycling points means they are thrown away with general waste or recycling; here they contaminate other recycling and their lithium batteries represent a fire risk to bin trucks and waste facilities.
"One small act, like putting disposable vapes in general waste or recycling, can cause immense disruption, considerable damage to our collection vehicles, and create danger to the public and our operators,” explained Councillor Nigel Chapman, Oxford City Council's Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services and Council Companies.
A discarded vape “probably caused” a fire in a waste disposal vehicle last summer and resulted in “significant damage to the vehicle,” Chapman said. “It’s important to dispose of vapes appropriately so that they can be properly treated and not cause a hazard.”
The scheme adds 60 new vape recycling points at small retailers, shopping areas, bars and cafes across Oxford, Banbury, Bicester, and Kidlington; new recycling bins at household waste recycling centres; and a new separate kerbside collection for vapes in Cherwell. Elsewhere in Oxfordshire, vapes can be recycled at the kerbside with other small electrical items.
“All residents need to do is place the vapes in a clear plastic bag on top of their blue or green bin on collection day,” said Councillor Andrew McHugh, Portfolio Holder for Cleaner and Greener Communities at Cherwell District Council.
Councillor Pete Sudbury, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment would support a ban on the sale of disposable vapes: “However, while vapes are still being used and thrown away, this project will expand the range of services for residents to safely recycle them.”
The Council has received £40,000 in funding from Material Focus, the not-for-profit leading the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, and is one of over 40 UK projects to receive funding as part of a wider initiative to make it easier for residents to recycle their electricals.
"It isn't safe to dispose of used vapes at home, and we ask people not to put them in their bins because their lithium batteries are highly flammable, explosive and polluting.”
Material Focus estimates that 7.7 million single-use vapes are bought per week in the UK but only 17% of vapers recycle them in a shop or local recycling centre; 76% say they would be more likely to recycle if vapes were marketed as ‘recyclable’.
Similar schemes have been established by Hampshire Country Council, where all household waste recycling centres will accept reusable, refillable and disposable vapes for recycling, and Durham County Council, where 12 household waste recycling centres and 15 community venues will accept vapes.
Vapes are sent to a local treatment and recovery facility where they are dismantled and the plastic and metals are processed for recycling, while the batteries are recycled and the wick, filter and nicotine are incinerated.
Councillor Mark Wilkes, Durham’s Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods and Climate Change said: "It isn't safe to dispose of used vapes at home, and we ask people not to put them in their bins because their lithium batteries are highly flammable, explosive and polluting.”