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    Over 250m disposable vapes to be thrown away in run up to the ban: study

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    With the forthcoming ban on disposable vapes due to be implemented in 2025, new research by Material Focus has identified that a quarter of a billion plus vapes will be thrown away in the run up to the ban.

    The study also noted that that the system for managing these vapes is ineffective with both vape producers and vape retailers failing to meet their environmental obligations. 

    New analysis conducted by Material Focus, the not for profit leading the Recycle Your Electricals campaign, has indicated that 90 per cent of vape producers in the UK seem to be still failing to comply with environmental regulations with no improvement since 2023.

    This means they are failing to pay the costs of collection and recycling of vapes which they are legally obliged to do. The research follows an analysis undertaken by Material Focus in 2023 which also identified that 90 per cent of vape producers were not meeting their environmental obligations. 

    Material Focus also conducted research amongst 764 retailers in 13 cities across the UK  who sell vapes, including high street leading brands, convenience stores and specialist vape stores. The research found that, despite legal obligations being in place since 1 January 2021, only 86 stores (11%) provided recycling points.

    Of the shops that were visited as part of the research, vape drop off points were available in 33 per cent of 57 specialist vape retailers. However, high street brands provided very little or zero recycling drop-off points for vapes.

    Sales of disposable single-use vapes are now around 360 million per annum with over 5 million of them thrown away every week, equivalent to 8 per second.

    The analysis, which examined the company records of over 165 of the most significant vape and vape juice producers in the UK, identified that only 15 had registered to comply with environmental regulations for producer responsibility for waste electricals, portable batteries, and packaging.

    Material Focus analysis has also identified that if all of the 360 million disposable single-use vapes that are bought in the UK per annum were financed to be recycled, as they should be by these producers, this would cost the producers up to £200 million per annum.

    “It is shocking that there has been so little progress since last year,” Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus said.

    “With the forthcoming ban on single-use vapes due to be implemented in 2025 it is vital that the quarter of a billion plus vapes, that could be thrown away in the run up to the ban, are instead collected for recycling and that we put in place an effective and accessible system for managing the recycling of new vape products, such as pods already coming onto the market.”

    Reacting to the study, John Dunne, director general of UK Vaping Industry Association, said: “All retailers and producers of vaping products need to take their environmental responsibility seriously and we would certainly expect those who are UKVIA members to be compliant with the existing regulations.

    “These figures are very concerning and more needs to be done, not just by retailers who must shoulder their responsibility, but also government and regulators, who need to police compliance effectively. We briefed our members on the updated regulations at the start of this year and we will continue to stress that all retailers, whether UKVIA members or not, make any necessary changes by the April deadline. We also work closely with the Office of Product Safety and Standards to ensure the right controls are in place.”

    He urged the government to introduce a licensing scheme for vape retailers to ensure compliance, where a license to operate is predicated on a take-back facility being in place.

    “We have been calling for such a scheme for many years now, not only for this reason, but also to ensure retailers are only selling legal vapes to adults and not children,” he said.

    “We would also urge local authorities to play their part in recycling vapes. A new FOI investigation from the UKVIA found 80 per cent of surveyed councils have no plans to introduce new vape recycling services in the next year and a third don’t currently offer drop off points for used vapes of any kind,” he added.

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