United States: millions of non-recycled puffs end up in the trash

An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism[1]based on a survey conducted by the Truth Initiative among 2,700 young Americans, aged 15 to 24,[2] revealed that in the United States, every second, five disposable electronic cigarettes (puff type) are thrown in the trash despite containing reusable lithium-ion batteries and should follow a specific recycling process. Over a year, this waste represents 150 million devices, which contain enough lithium for around 6,000 Teslas.

Most disposable electronic cigarettes, known as “puffs”, contain a rechargeable battery but no charging port and are designed to be thrown away once the battery is depleted. The rapid development of these products poses a new environmental problem. They are produced in large quantities and include batteries composed of heavy metals, electronic circuits, plastic and liquid and nicotine residues which become massive and dangerous sources of waste. When they are poorly recycled or abandoned in nature, they decompose, releasing micro-plastics, thus polluting waterways, fauna, or flora.

A previous Bureau survey in the UK had already found that two disposable e-cigarettes were thrown into the bin every second in the UK, representing enough lithium to make around 1,200 electric car batteries over a year.[3].

A product acclaimed by young people and poorly recycled by them

The Truth Initiative survey found that more than half of 15-24 year olds who vape use disposable devices. More than two-thirds of them (68%) throw their used device directly in the household trash, 13% in ordinary recycling bins, 9% threw them on the ground and only 8% sent them to suitable recycling facilities. recycling of electronic devices. With 19% of current vapers nationwide throwing five or more puffs in the trash each month, these devices are piling up and contributing to a growing global e-waste problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that vapes are mistakenly disposed of in household trash because they are often labeled as “disposable”. This leads to the entire device, including its battery, being thrown away in the household waste. Lithium-ion batteries are defined as hazardous waste due to their toxic nature and propensity to catch fire when damaged. Despite this, it is perfectly legal to dispose of these batteries in household trash in the United States. In the European Union, electronic cigarettes must be subject to specialized recycling.

Manufacturers provide no guidance on how to properly recycle puffs

According to Truth, e-cigarette manufacturers are not properly informing consumers on how to dispose of their products safely and in an environmentally responsible way. For Puff Bar, the most popular puff brand in the United States, no indication is provided on the website regarding the recycling of these products.

Federal guidelines on disposal of vaping products are limited and focused on refillable devices with removable components. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises users not to dispose of components, waste e-liquid, or pods in the trash, and advises that such waste should be taken to hazardous waste facilities, and removed batteries sent to certified electronic battery recyclers. This directive does not apply to disposable devices: it is dangerous to remove the liquid container and lithium batteries from disposable devices, as punctured batteries can easily start a chemical fire and e-liquids can contaminate the environment.

To address these issues, Truth recommends that the EPA and FDA develop federal regulatory guidelines to require vaping product manufacturers to develop waste management processes and recycling programs and provide penalties. in the event of industry non-compliance. For disposable devices, the organization wants the ban on the sale of these products at the local and state levels. Some localities have already done so, including Monterey, Monterey County and San Benito County in California.

Keywords: Disposable electronic cigarettes, puffs, environment, lithium, recycling, waste, Truth, pollution

©Tobacco Free Generation


[1] Matthew Chapman, Lithium being trashed by the ton as disposable vapes flooding the US marketThe Bureau, published December 15, 2022, accessed December 16, 2022

[2] Most young users put disposable e-cigarettes in trash, creating huge streams of toxic and hazardous waste, as companies fail to take responsibilityTruth Initiative, published December 15, 2022, accessed December 16, 2022

[3] Tobacco Free Generation, A majority of disposable e-cigarettes are not recycled and end up in landfillspublished July 19, 2022, accessed December 16, 2022

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United States: millions of non-recycled puffs end up in the trash

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