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Environmental summit calls for collaboration to meet vape sector’s green challenge

March 22, 2023

Photo: iStock

The UK’s first ever environmental summit for the vaping sector has been hailed a massive success after bringing together political, regulatory, environmental, recycling, consumer and vape industry experts to help deliver a ‘Greenprint for Sustainable Vaping’.

The three-hour virtual summit was organised by the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) as an important step to tackle the environmental impact of single use vape products.

While these entry-level devices are responsible for record numbers of adult smokers switching to vaping, the summit’s participants were unanimous that much more must be done to protect the environment.

The Greenprint for Sustainable Vaping aims to mobilise environmental action to support a sustainable vaping sector. It will include recommendations on creating a national recycling and waste treatment capability fit for the vaping industry, driving new vape innovations that make products easier to recycle and reuse, and supporting greater retailer and consumer participation in the recycling and reuse of vape products.

“The clear message from this summit is that there is more education needed both from consumer and industry perspectives,” John Dunne, UKVIA director general, said.

“It is important for regulators, the industry and those dealing with the recycling and environmental aspects of this issue, to all come together to seek a common solution because this problem is not going to go away without action.

“We found a great deal of common ground at this summit and the focus now must be on ensuring that all importers, manufacturers and retailers of vaping products step up to the plate and ensure they are compliant with all environmental obligations. If they don’t, they are committing a criminal offence.”

Adam Afriyie MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, told how the industry has done so much to ‘help secure the health of the nation’ and said that vaping had already saved millions of lives globally.

He said it was now vital that action was taken to lessen the impact of single use vapes on the environment.

The Windsor MP added: “Vaping has already saved so many lives in the UK that is has become part of the healthcare industry and now it must come together to find a sustainable solution for disposing of these vape products and prevent the naysayers from undermining an industry that has probably saved more lives than any other modern innovation in the history of our country.”

The Sustainable Vaping Summit covered topics including:

  • The Changing Regulatory Landscape with the WEEE review
  • Establishing a necessary recycling and waste treatment infrastructure for the vaping industry.
  • Maximising the role of vape retailers in driving sustainability.
  • Changing the throwaway behaviours of vapers
  • Innovating new eco-friendly devices to maximise their recyclable and reusable content.

The Summit was told that Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) was currently reforming the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Regulations which may see vaping given its own separate category, partly in response to the rise in demand for single-use devices. More details will be published shortly and a formal consultation is due to be held before the summer. Companies in the vape sector were advised to ensure that they are fully compliant with regulations and must not wait until the outcome of the current review to do so.

The Summit heard that innovative solutions were required to encourage consumers to recycle more widely including educational campaigns, information being provided at point of sale, incentive schemes and establishing recycling points at locations where they were most likely to be used.

Innovation in product design to support more environmentally friendly vape products was another key discussion area.

Mohammad Agrabawi, senior director of corporate affairs and communications for ANDS, said the company is currently developing an eco-friendly vape device to make maximum use of biodegradable and recyclable components, while promoting its sustainability program across retail stores and duty-free shops in the Middle East, to encourage users to properly dispose vape products into assigned bins developed and managed by ANDS.

Echo Liu, european division director for Feelm, announced that the company is planning a new a national recycling scheme for its Feelm Max ceramic coil disposable solution, including household collection that will involve all supply chain partners, including brand owners, retailers, delivery companies and the waste management industry. It will be the first time a manufacturer has led on a recycling scheme which is not a regulatory obligation for this type of business.

Doug Mutter, manufacturing and compliance director at VPZ, said consumer education was a vital component for sustainability and added: “We actively try to convert customers to switch to reusable open systems because not only are they more environmentally friendly, they are also a significantly cheaper way to vape.”

Pippa Bailey, head of climate change and sustainability Practice at IPSOS, said there needed to be a social embarrassment associated with throwing used devices in the bin so that recycling becomes the norm. In the same way that we have come to feel some embarrassment when we forget to bring our bags to do our supermarket shop.