Over 1.3 million disposable vapes a week are ending up in landfill or incineration

Words by Sam Leader, ITV News' Here's The Story

They're now a common sight in bars, nightclubs and at festivals - partygoers gripping for dear life to their disposable vapes.

Their bright colours and eccentric flavours that range from pink lemonade to blue razz ice have exploded in popularity in the last year.

They're also used by thousands as an alternative to smoking whilst others are taking up the habit without being smokers beforehand.

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 according to research by Material Focus.

Image: Disposable vapes can now be found in windows on most high streets in the UK

They also contain precious resources - inside is lithium, they contain stainless steel and are coated in plastic - and not all of them are being recycled.

Research suggests around a million vapes are thrown away every week in the UK, about two vapes every second, but only around 30% are actually being recycled.

Speaking to students in Kent, most hadn't really considered where their disposable vapes were going once they were thrown away whilst others had opted for reusable vapes in an effort to cut down on the impact to the environment.

Students in Kent on using disposable vapes

SWEEEP Kuusakoski is a waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling facility which is set up to dispose of disposable vapes safely and correctly.

They say that although the recycling process for disposable vapes is their most expensive and comes with complications, it's essential that their materials are put to use again rather than ending up in landfill.

Justin Greenaway, Commercial Manager at SWEEEP Kuusakoski says if a disposable vape is thrown into "general waste it literally will go to landfill or incineration". "There's plastics, there's stainless steel and aluminium. There's lithium in the lithium battery that we want to be making new cars out of, and all of that is just rubbish and not able to go back round again. If it goes in the right container, it will come to us and we can recycle it."

Image: SWEEEP Kuusakoski receives hundreds of disposable vapes ready to be recycled every week

Justin adds that "the real sin of [not recycling disposable vapes] is when they don't go to the right place and cause a fire risk or environmental hazards through somebody that's not expecting them in their waste stream."

Each disposable vape also contains small amounts of e-liquid that contains nicotine, so recycling facilities like SWEEEP have to make sure staff are not exposed to the substance.

Scott Butler, Executive Director at Material Focus said "every single use vape can - and should be - recycled" adding "this is not something you wait on".

Scott Butler from Material Focus reiterates the array of issues that come from disposable vapes

Scott said there was a degree of producer responsibility in the recycling of disposable vapes too.

"We really need to look a little bit more about whether people are fully responsible, fully meeting their environmental responsibility. But the regulations are there, they just need to be enforced a lot better."

The emphasis is also on consumers to be properly recycling their disposable vapes - Material Focus say by typing a postcode into 'Recycle your Electricals' it's possible to find the closest place to drop off your disposables.

They also recommend speaking to your local supplier by enquiring about where you can recycle your device in order to apply "soft pressure" and create a "much stronger network for collecting and recycling vapes".