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Are E-Cigarettes Creating a Recycling Disaster?

Author:Zhengyang MachineryTimes:2019-08-28
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Market research group Euromonitor estimates that the number of adults who vape will reach almost 55 million by 2021. The e-cigarette market was worth approximately $5.5bn as of 2018. As of 2017, there were 565 types of e-cigarette devices on the market in the US, 184 of which were disposable or single-use, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. When littered, these products can leach dangerous metals, battery acid, and nicotine into the environment. And there is no legal way to recycle them.

While leading vape companies JUUL and Altria have expressed the need to act on the growing problem of electronic waste that their devices leave behind, “none of the companies so far have taken the necessary action,” said Yogi Hale Hendlin, a research associate at the Environmental Health Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco.

“It is the consensus of public health researchers working on the environmental costs of tobacco that e-cigarette manufacturers need to put a product deposit system into action,” he said.

Hendlin, together with Jeremiah Mock who led the study, and their colleagues recently examined disposal of e-cigarette waste. They conducted a study at 12 San Francisco Bay area high schools and found JUUL or JUUL-compatible product waste in the parking lots of 10 out of 12 schools, collecting 172 waste items mainly from mango, mint and cucumber flavored capsules strewn about the ground.

“The presence of JUUL waste in our sample of high schools suggests that JUUL waste disposal is a significant environmental problem, particularly at high schools with more affluent student populations,” the study found.

Vape cartridges that hold flavored nicotine or cannabis solution contain chemicals and must be dealt with as hazardous waste, while the lithium ion batteries the vaping devices contain must be handled by e-waste programs, according to hazardous waste firm PEGEX.

Proper disposal of an e-cigarette requires removing the filler material, rinsing it under running water until all nicotine residues are removed, and then wrapping it in a scrap of biodegradable material. The cartridge itself should be similarly rinsed and then sealed with its original plug. “Only then can it all be discarded as you would any other plastic waste,” PEGEX said.

 
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