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Five million vapes are binned every week in the UK

New research has found that the number of vapes thrown away in the UK has quadrupled in the past 12 months

Research published by not-for-profit organisation Material Focus has shown that five million single-use vapes are being thrown away every week in the UK, equivalent to eight vapes a second.

The publication of these latest figures marks a fourfold increase over the past year in the number of vapes that are thrown away.  

In total, 73 per cent of UK vapers say they throw away single-use vapes. One per cent of UK vapers say they flush single-use vapes down the toilet. Three per cent say they drop vapes on the ground, rising to eight per cent among 16 to 18-year-olds. Additionally, 33 per cent of 16- to 18-year-old vapers throw their vapes away in the bin at school or at work.

The main reason that vapers aged between 16 and 18 throw away, drop, or flush their vapes is because they don’t want the people they live with to know they vape.

Vapes can cause fires in bin lorries and waste treatment facilities if not disposed of correctly, as their lithium batteries can become flammable when crushed.

In total, only 17 per cent of vapers recycle their vapes in the correct recycling bins.

Scott Butler, executive director at Material Focus, said the “problem with single-use vapes has gotten further out of control” since the organisation published research on the topic last year. “Single-use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging and dangerous consumer product ever made,” he said.

Over 30 million single-use vapes are bought per month by UK adults aged over 16, with around 360 million purchased annually – double the number compared to Material Focus research conducted of adults over 18 in 2022. Additionally, the number of young women vaping every day in the UK has tripled in the past year, while paediatricians have said vaping is “fast becoming an epidemic among children”. Chief medical officer Chris Whitty also spoke out against the marketing of vapes to children earlier this year, calling the rising numbers of young vapers “appalling”.

In recent months, there have been numerous calls for a ban on disposable vapes, while Rishi Sunak has suggested that he is planning to crack down on ‘predatory marketing tactics’ which encourage children to buy vapes.

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish first minister, announced on Tuesday that Scotland would hold a consultation on banning disposable vapes in 2024. A consultation on banning single-use vapes is also underway in Ireland.