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Dealing with disposables

September 11, 2023

Filled vape recycling drum with vermiculite (Photo: Veolia)

By Kiran Paul

With concerns over the environmental impact of discarded single-use vapes continuing to hog the limelight, convenience retailers are addressing the challenge head-on, accepting used one-time vapes back in store for safe disposal.

Significantly, the consumers are responding positively to the initiative, two retailers who have launched vape take back services in their stores told Vape Business.

Imtiyaz Mamode

“What customers [of disposable vapes] are causing to the environment, this is a problem as well,” notes Imtiyaz Mamode, of Premier Gosport in Hampshire. “They will throw the disposables everywhere, on the road, in the bins as well, and there are chances of exploding in the bin and it can get to the point where it catches fire. But we’d like to solve this problem as well.”

They have started taking returns from the customers, and even offer a discount to those who bring back the used vapes!

“At the moment, what we are doing is, if someone brings an empty disposable vape back to the store we provide them a 25p discount on another one. The maximum that they can bring on one transaction is four, so they will get £1 discount on disposable vapes,” Imtiyaz explains, adding that they are getting a good response from the customers.

“There are two positives,” he says.” It is good for the environment, as well as your footfall. It is increased as well. I will say this is good for us despite we are losing that one pound.

“It is good for the shop and good for the environment. They don’t go anywhere. And it is coming to me and I can dispose it.”

Dee Sedani

Dee Sedani, who runs three stores in the East Midlands under the One Stop banner, has launched the take-back scheme in partnership with vape supplier Aquavape.

“We have got recycling bins in our stores now. So, customers put their old ones in, obviously, we then email the company (Aquavape), they come out and collect it and give us a new bin. And that’s it. Job done,” he says.

And, the response from the customers has been beyond his expectations, he adds.

“I thought no one would do it, honestly. But, our bins are getting sold every week. I am shocked when managers ask, ‘Can we have some new bins’,” he says. “So the customers are slowly doing it. They’re getting educated.”

Imtiyaz has not yet decided on how to recycle the vapes he collected, and looking for an operator who would dispose it safely.

He adds that every retailer should consider taking back the disposable vapes, noting that the issue is a major reason cited by those calling for a ban on the product.

“Recently I read in the local news that there was a fire in the bin truck because of the vapes. So a local councillor has filed a petition and I received an email saying that they want the vapes to be banned,” he says.

Imtiyaz, however, opines that banning would not be a wise move, as he has seen customers who used to smoke a lot of cigarettes kicking the habit after switching to vapes.

“Now they don’t smoke, they have completely stopped smoking. So, that’s really the benefit of the vapes,” he points out. “I think it should be for each and every shop that they should take the disposables back by doing anything.”

iStock image

A study by Zurich Municipal has recently shown that three disposable vapes are being binned incorrectly every second in the UK, causing a surge in fires in council refuse trucks and waste processing plants.

Research by the public sector insurer found that 78 per cent of the 138 million single-use vapes sold in the UK are dumped in general waste, instead of being recycled. It means more than two million single-use vapes are thrown away improperly every week.

As per the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulations, all e-cigarette retailers have a legal obligation to offer customers a free recycling point for these items. They can either provide a free, in-store, take-back service or can join the Defra-approved Distributor Take-back Service operated by Valpak Retail WEEE Services.

Leading waste management companies Veolia and Biffa have recently launched vape collection schemes for retailers, providing a UK-wide disposal and recycling solution for disposable vapes.