Local News

Disposable Vapes: An Environmental Time Bomb

26 million disposable vapes were consumed and thrown away in Scotland in the last year, of which an estimated 10% were littered and more than half were incorrectly disposed of.

the different parts which make up an e cigarette
The average full weight of a SU-ecig was estimated, conservatively, at 32g, of which on average 10.8g is the battery, 9.5g plastic, 6.5g steel, 1g cotton wick, 1g cellulose material, and small amounts of critical metal

Orkney Councillor for the Scottish Greens, John Ross Scott, wants the local council to push for the Scottish Government to implement a ban on the sale of single use vapes. His motion on the issue will come before OIC today, 4th of July.

A report from Zero Waste Scotland commissioned by the Scottish Government has published the following figures:

  • In 2022 10.8% of the adult population were regular users of e-cigarettes and that of these, more than a quarter (27%) were estimated to be users of single-use e-cigarettes
  • In the 52 weeks to early April 2023, the number of disposable vapes consumed in Scotland was estimated to be between 21 and 26 million units
  • The lithium polymer batteries used in some of the most popular e-cigarettes could be recharged 500 times if the product allowed for such
  • The total emissions associated with single-use vapes in 2022 was estimated to be between 3375 and 4292 tonnes CO2e
  • The weight of packaging and materials discarded as a result of single-use e-cigarette consumption in Scotland is currently between 800 and 1,000 tonnes per year

Councillor Scott’s motion to OIC has been seconded by Councillor Stephen Clackson and is supported by Councillor Owen Tierney. Scott’s motion also refers to the health concerns associated with vaping.

It states that:

“The council recognise the amount of use by children under the age of 18, which is illegal under current law, and deplores the clear marketing of these products at younger consumers under titles like bubblegum, ice cream and skittles. There is also evidence that this use is also happening within school grounds.

That with immediate effect the council instructs its Trading Standards staff to ensure enforcement of existing regulations on the control of the sale and retailing of these product for all businesses in Orkney.

That the council instructs officers to consider implementing a programme of educational resources to be rolled out in schools (including upper primary) and through youth and community groups highlighting the consequences of vaping, complementing the teaching currently covered in the PSE curriculum.”

The report by Zero Waste Scotland has produced some alarming figures on the environmental impacts in the significant rise in vaping. It has made recommendations for government on actions which can be taken. These would involve both the UK and Scottish governments although the focus of the report is on what the Scottish Government could do.

The report has 9 policy options which can be viewed in more detail at the end of this article.

  • Policy Option 1: Setting design criteria for e-cigarettes.
  • Policy Option 2: Requiring that batteries can be removed and be replaced (potentially to all WEEE items)
  • Policy Option 3: A ban on the sale of SU-ecigs.
  • Policy Option 4: Charging a deposit for SU-ecigs to be refunded on return for recycling.
  • Policy Option 5: A tax linked to recycling performance.
  • Policy Option 6: Changes in the WEEE Regulations relating to the scope of cost recovery, a separate WEEE category for e cigarettes, costs of management of e-cigarettes and setting targets.
  • Policy Option 7: A levy or charge on sales payable by the consumer.
  • Policy Option 8: A ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.
  • Policy Option 9: Tightening of enforcement of existing law in relation to underage sales.
front cover of the zero waste report on vaping includes a person's head with a cloud of vapour engulfing them

We estimate that in the year ending January 2023, there were 543,000 vapers in Scotland of which we estimate 51 thousand (9%) were under 16, and 78 thousand (14%) were under 18. Without intervention, this could rise to over 900,000 users by 2027.

Commenting on the report Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland said:

“Any form of littering is unacceptable – it damages the environment, economy, and is a blight on the areas where we live, work, and socialise. Single use vapes are made up of components which, unless disposed of safely and responsibly, can last on our planet for years and years. And the sight of them, discarded on our streets, is becoming far too common.

“This is why Zero Waste Scotland was happy to lead on this important report. Tackling our throwaway culture is a priority for us and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government in highlighting the huge impact that littering these items has on the environment.”

There is clearly a lot Orkney could do locally if the motion by Councillor Scott is supported by councillors today, July 4th.

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. I posted the following on my blog in April….

    “Plastic Lasts…

    This is an interesting pic. of smoking paraphernalia….….


    The big difference being, that the clay pipe would disintegrate relatively quickly – the plastic vape case….wouldn’t…


    As Twitter won’t let me look at it now, I’m not sure if the link still works – probably does for those who are signed up to Twitter.

    By the by – I see those numbers plummeting.

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