Vaping and the environment
Each cigarette contains over 1200 cellulose acetate fibres. It takes just one cigarette butt to kill half of the fish in a litre of water.
Yet every year 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded into the environment, where they can take 10 years to break down. In the process, they leach toxins, restrict plant growth and kill wildlife. (Sources: Very Well Mind, National Geographic.)
There’s little doubt that cigarettes are an environmental disaster.
But are electronic cigarettes any better?
The vaping industry is hampered by well-meaning but poorly drafted legislation that mandates the use of 10ml plastic bottles. This is environmentally damaging in itself due to the sheer number of individual bottles needing to be produced, but there’s also batteries and disposable vapes to consider.
Fortunately, there are a number of things we as individuals can do to minimise our impact on the environment. The good news is that many of these actions will also help save you money.
7 ways to be a more eco-friendly vaper
Choose re-usable devices
One of the best things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment is to minimise your use of disposables.
Disposable vape devices are growing in popularity. Should you find yourself caught with a dead battery or a cracked glass, they can be a handy way to deal with cravings until you can sort out your regular vape.
But let’s not forget, each disposable vape contains a lithium-ion battery.
These batteries are designed to be used at least 300 times. (They can even last a lot longer. I’ve known Aspire PockeX and Innokin Coolfire IV batteries to last for years.) But if you use a disposable battery, you throw it away after using it for just a few hours.
If the majority of vapers, or smokers, started using disposable vapes, you could be looking at hundreds of millions more batteries being manufactured, transported around the world and then discarded every year. It would also mean more lithium mining - an energy and chemical intensive process that is damaging to the environment and local eco-systems.
Even worse, disposables are difficult to recycle, as they contain both a battery and nicotine in the same device.
I’ve spoken to many people in the vape industry who are concerned about the increasing popularity of disposable devices. But, as with any industry, consumer demand will ultimately drive this trend. As vapers, we can play a big part to combat the issue by being conscientious in the devices we choose.
So if you care about the environment, do consider using a rechargeable vape device. You’ll be helping the environment and, over time, you’ll also save yourself a lot of money.
When ready, graduate to refillable tanks
Cigalikes and pre-filled cartridges/pods with fixed coils are super easy to use.
For vapers who are put off by more advanced devices, they make a great entry point to vaping as there is no refilling or coil changing required.
But modern refillable devices are not rocket science to use either. With many current devices, you twist the top to reveal a filling hole - and fill.
You can also go a step further and buy a device that uses tanks or pods with replaceable coils. Then, when the coil comes to the end of its life, you simply replace the coil. This reduces the amount of glass, plastic and metal needed in manufacturing as well as saving you money on buying new tanks or pods.
Batteries can be recycled, but in reality many are thrown away in black waste.
Fortunately, there are a number of options for a more eco-friendly battery disposal.
One way to dispose of them is to return them to your supplier. Under the WEEE scheme, vape sellers are required to take batteries back and send them for recycling.
You can also drop batteries off at a recycling centre. Websites like Local Recycling will help you find the nearest centre. If you have a car, try to drop them off as part of another journey, so you are not increasing your emissions at the same time.
Plastic bottles are trickier, as there is conflicting advice. Some sources say that e-liquid bottles can not be recycled because they contain nicotine. Other sources, including some local authorities and recycling firms, advise that they can be recycled if they are washed first.
The IBVTA is currently seeking clarification over the issue, and we’ll update this post when there is clear, consistent advice available.
Choose eco-friendly suppliers
It’s also a great idea to buy devices and e-liquids from companies that are adopting environmentally friendly practices.
The company has partnered with One Tree Planted to plant trees in the Amazon, and has plans to become carbon neutral in the long term. Innokin also works with partners in France to collect, process and recycle electronic waste and lithium batteries and are planning to set up a similar project in the UK.
At E-Cigarette Direct, we are switching company cars over to electric vehicles and have installed an electric car charger point at our headquarters for staff use. We also source our energy from renewable sources and send out orders in recyclable jiffy bags.
It’s a great idea to write to the companies you use asking them what they do for the environment. This has two benefits:
- Companies that are already taking steps to benefit the environment can see that it has value to customers.
- Companies that are not yet taking steps to minimise harm to the environment can see there is consumer demand for it.
Reduce power usage
You can also minimise your impact on the environment by reducing power consumption.
First, it’s worth turning off your device when it’s not in use. This is a good idea anyway, as it prevents the device being accidentally fired when it is in your pocket, which can also burn out your coil.
Clouds are great, but if you choose to MTL vape instead of DL vape, you’ll both reduce power use and save plenty of money in e-liquid and replacement coils!
Use high strength e-liquid
Many vapers use low strength e-liquid, as they don’t want to use too much nicotine. This can be based on:
- the misconception that nicotine is the cause of smoking diseases
- underestimating the amount of nicotine needed to curb cravings.
However, using lower strength nicotine can lead to more vaping, as vapers vape more to try and assuage their cravings. The end result is using more vapour to get the same amount of nicotine.
By using e-liquid with the right strength to meet your needs, you can vape less and reduce your consumption.
While most vape devices are made abroad, the UK has a tremendous e-liquid industry, with manufacturing process and testing procedures that are some of the best in the world.
Which is handy, because you can also reduce your ‘vape miles’ by buying e-liquid made here in the UK.
What can policy makers do?
By law, any e-liquid containing nicotine needs to be supplied in a plastic 10ml bottle. Scientists have argued that this was based on a misunderstanding of the science (see: Scientific Errors in the Tobacco Products Directive: A letter sent by scientists to the European Union).
Some suppliers, such as Cuts Ice, use recyclable plastic in their bottles. But as we have seen, we do not yet have consistent guidance on whether they can actually be recycled.
However, one way to minimise the harm of plastic to the environment is to increase bottle size. This has two benefits:
1. The amount of plastic needed to contain more e-liquid. For example, one 60ml bottle uses 16.4g plastic, compared to 50.4g for six 10ml bottles.
2. Fewer bottle caps are used.
Increasing allowed bottle sizes would be an immediate win for the environment.
Vaping has had a huge net benefit for public health. Many of us can feel the positive impact vaping has had for us, both in terms of finances and our health, ability to breathe and ability to exercise. But with the environment being an ever-growing concern, it’s well worth taking what steps we can to minimise our vaping footprint.