The rise in vapes is partly down to the fact the latest survey included 16-17 year olds for the first time.
Disposable single-use vapes are piling up in the UK at an alarming rate, with new research from Material Focus revealing that the number of these discarded devices has skyrocketed from 1.3 million to almost five million each week, equating to eight vapes being thrown away every second.
Material Focus, an independent not-for-profit organization funded by the WEEE compliance fee, conducted this research in collaboration with YouGov, surveying UK adults, including 16-17-year-olds for the first time, to gauge the extent of single-use vape consumption and disposal in the country.
The study unearthed several significant findings, including:
- A monthly purchase of over 30 million single-use vapes by UK adults aged 16 and above, double the figure from Material Focus's 2022 research of adults aged 18 and older.
- A mere 17% of vape consumers recycling their single-use devices at shops or local recycling centers.
- The accumulation of nearly 3 million single-use vapes per month stashed away in UK households.
- A staggering 73% of UK vapers discarding their single-use vapes irresponsibly.
Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, expressed deep concern, saying: "Since our last research publication, the problem of single-use vapes has spiralled further out of control. Single-use vapes are a strong contender for being the most environmentally wasteful, damaging, and dangerous consumer product ever made." He criticized the lack of environmental compliance among producers and retailers, emphasizing that local authorities are now grappling with the consequences of managing the UK's fastest-growing and most perilous waste stream.
Material Focus has proposed a series of solutions to address this mounting crisis, including:
- Urgent and transparent voluntary action by the vape industry to establish a comprehensive and widely accessible take-back and recycling system, along with a robust public awareness campaign.
- The installation of more vape recycling points in stores, parks, public spaces, schools, and colleges.
- A mandate for all supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations, and specialist vape shops to accept old single-use vapes when customers purchase new ones.