Government launches public consultation on disposable vapes

   Thu, 8th Jun, 2023

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications with special responsibility for Communications and the Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth, has launched a public consultation to help inform Ireland’s response to disposable vaping devices.

Vaping products contain electronic components, including a battery, and require safe disposal when they become waste. They contain a complex mixture of materials, some of which may be hazardous and are not easily recyclable. As with other modern electronics, they also contain rare and expensive materials, which can be re-used as part of the circular economy.

With the explosion in popularity of vaping over the past few years, KMK Metals Recycling has experienced a huge upsurge in the number of vaping products.  The company is a super contractor of WEEE Ireland, the largest e-waste recycling compliance scheme in the country, and the organisation has been working closely with the vaping industry to ensure that vapes are recycled through the established battery collection system.

Kevin Thornton, Battery Department Manager at KMK Metals Recycling said: “In the first quarter of 2023, vapes accounted for over 25% of all Lithium-Ion Batteries removed through our sorting activity. Retailers are obliged to take back all types of vapes on a one-for-one, like-for-like basis and WEEE Ireland have been working hard to get this message across. This makes the most sense for us as when the vapes come in through the battery department, we can segregate them and make sure they are recycled safely. If vapes come in through the main WEEE collections, there is a higher risk of a fire breaking out, given that a volatile lithium-ion battery is imbedded in each small device.

“Ideally, if vapes are going to continue to come in, in such large volumes, we would prefer to see a move towards rechargeable vapes only. With single-use, disposable devices, obviously the volumes are going to be higher and as a result, the risk of fire increases which is a big concern for us. On top of that, single use products such as these are damaging to the environment and can be a waste of precious resources if not recycled correctly.”

End-of-life disposable, single-use or rechargeable vapes can be recycled for free wherever you see WEEE Ireland Blue Battery Boxes and the compliance scheme is planning a roll-out of specially-designed collection boxes for vape shops.

For the Government, potential policy options include:

a ban on the manufacture, sale, distribution, or free offer of disposable vaping devices under the Waste Management Act, 1996, Section 28(4)(i)

the establishment of a deposit and return system for disposable vaping devices

no legislative change but improve the producer responsibility scheme to ensure all producers placing devices on the market are registered with the Producer Register Limited, ensure enforcement of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements is adequate, and improve education and awareness around returning devices into the WEEE and battery collection schemes for responsible recycling

Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Minister Smyth said:

"Today’s consultation will help the government learn how people feel about disposable vapes. By asking people to tell us what they think, we want to inform and strengthen the government’s response to disposable vaping products. To help Ireland transition to a circular economy, I am committed to leading the development of our environmental response. I strongly support the move by The Minister for Health to introduce a new law to restrict the sale and advertising of nicotine inhaling products."

The public consultation is now open for submissions for an eight-week period until 27 July 2023. Please visit the department's website for further information on how to participate in this consultation.