Agency sets out vapes recycling stance

The UK Environment Agency has issued a notice to all compliance schemes and approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs) regarding the processing of disposable vapes.

The notice, published on 16 March, explained that the agency is aware of “current concerns being expressed” around the incineration of disposable vapes and stated its position on the matter. The agency explained that all treatment facilities must operate in compliance with their permit, which includes a condition that Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques are used.

In the case of vapes, recycling techniques must include the removal of batteries and liquids. If a recycling technique for vapes is reasonably available, then an ATF must use it. The agency also stated that “whole vapes should not be incinerated”.

Compliance schemes were also reminded that under WEEE regulations, they are required to “set up systems that provide for the separate collection and treatment of WEEE using best available collection, treatment, recovery, and recycling techniques, for any WEEE for which they are responsible”. This regulation applies to vapes as they are in scope of the WEEE regulations.

The notice added that if incineration is required, it is for any fractions from the treatment of vapes that contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which “need to managed in a way that ensures the POPs are destroyed or irreversibly transformed”.

Disposable vapes have surged in popularity in recent years as a smoking alternative. Research from Material Focus, a not-for-profit organisation funded by the WEEE compliance fee, showed that 14 million single-use vapes are bought each month and 1.3 million are thrown away every week.

Read our previous story about vapes here.

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