Vaping is producing considerable amounts of waste, much of it in the form of discarded vapes that contain lithium-ion batteries that can and should be recycled. When these batteries end up in landfills because they aren't recycled properly, they can ignite, explode, and spark fires that quickly spread to envelope nearby trash. This can lead to the contamination of our air, water, and soil. Fortunately, there is a simple way to reduce the impact that vaping has on the environment and that's by recycling vaping products.
Can vapes be recycled? Yes. Vape batteries can be recycled and 95% of the materials in them can be recovered in the process. Lithium, steel, graphite, nickel, cobalt, aluminium, and copper can all be recovered from these batteries. Mixed metal dust can be created by recycling them which can then be repurposed to create new lithium-ion batteries and other products.
It is also possible to recycle the plastic components used in vaping products, such as the plastic bottles that vape juice is often sold in. The bottles can be thoroughly rinsed and then recycled.
Now that we are all clear on the fact that vapes can be recycled, it's time to explain how to recycle them. While there are a number of different ways to recycle vaping products, the lack of a clear recycling system adds an undesirable layer of complexity that we aim to dispel by explaining how vaping products can be recycled.
There are multiple ways to recycle vapes
Recycling centres, vape manufacturers, retailers, and municipal waste programs are all options for recycling vaping products. Let's explore these options together to find the option that works best for you.
Material Recovery Facilities
Local material recovery facilities, also known as recycling centres, may or may not accept vaping products for recycling. If they do, they may only accept certain vaping products. You will need to contact your local recycling centre to ask them whether they accept vaping products and if there are special instructions on how to deliver such products to be recycled.
Most recycling centres in the country are hand-sorted, meaning professional recyclers disassemble your recyclables by hand and sort the materials accordingly. There are also some semi-automated and even fully automated material recovery facilities, although these types are in the minority. Material recovery facilities are where your recyclables end up when they're picked up from your kerbside.
The nationally accredited Battery Stewardship Scheme, B-cycle, accepts vape batteries. Using B-cycle to recycle vape batteries is relatively easy thanks to the thousands of drop-off points that exist around the country. To find a B-cycle drop-off point, visit B-cycle's website and use the drop-off point finder to search for a nearby location where you can drop your used batteries off.
B-cycle exists to help solve the problem of used batteries ending up in landfills. In Australia, 90% of used batteries end up in a landfill. B-cycle aims to solve this problem by providing an easy way for all of us to recycle our used batteries.
The Government-backed scheme is run by the Battery Stewardship Council and it is authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. To accomplish its goals, B-cycle works with importers, retailers, and everyday Australians to encourage and support battery recycling.
B-cycle does accept "batteries that are easily removed from products like some vapes," a spokesperson for Western Australia's Department of Water and Environmental Regulation told ABC News.
Mobile Muster and Planet Ark are a couple of alternatives to B-cycle that offer similar services for recycling batteries.
Municipal Waste Recycling Programs
Some municipalities provide residents with free waste collection services that recycle vapes. One such service exists in New South Wales where the City of Sydney Council has contracted SCRgroup to provide a doorstep recycling service for Sydney residents that accepts vapes. The service also accepts polystyrene, clothing, and small electronics.
Rather unfortunately, recycling vapes through municipal waste programs is not the standard across the country and you may not have access to such a program in your municipality.
Aldi, Battery World, Woolworths, Officeworks, IKEA, and Bunnings all participate in battery recycling programs. There are many other retailers across the country that also participate in battery recycling programs.
Despite their participation in recycling programs, it is still a good idea to contact a store prior to attempting to drop off any used vaping products for recycling. By contacting them first, you can verify that they accept such products for recycling and you can gain clear instructions on how to go about delivering such products for recycling.
In addition to every day retailers, some vape stores may allow customers to recycle their vapes by returning them where they were purchased. Vape manufacturers may also allow customers to recycle their vapes by returning them.
Disassembling a vape can be dangerous
Damaged batteries can be extremely dangerous. As not all vapes are designed to have their batteries removed by their users, it is possible to damage the battery when attempting to extract it. The smart thing to do is to avoid this situation by leaving the job of disassembling a vape to the professionals at a material recovery facility. At a proper facility, professional recyclers will disassemble the product and properly sort its components for recycling.
Caution should be exercised even when extracting batteries from vaping devices that have removable batteries. To keep extracted batteries safe, their terminals should be taped to prevent contact and they should be stored at normal room temperature somewhere both cool and dry.
The reality is that vapes must be disassembled in order to recycle all of the various components. Due to the potential hazards associated with disassembling these types of devices, the best option is to leave the job to the professionals. One such professional, Reece Russell, a chemical engineer who runs a licensed vape disposal service in Western Australia known as Perth Chemical Specialists, told ABC News in an interview that he does not advise disassembling vapes at home due to the potential dangers associated with disassembly.
Recycling is just one of the many steps that we can all take together to help protect our world and build a sustainable future for all of us to enjoy.