European waste management associations call for ban on single-use vapes


Calls for a ban on the sale of single-use e-cigarettes are growing louder. In a recent joint statement, eight European waste management and recycling associations pushed for a Europe-wide complete ban on disposable vapes to be imposed by the end of the year. In addition to the umbrella associations EuRIC and FEAD, the paper was also co-singed by Municipal Waste Europe (MWE), European e-waste and battery recycling associations EERA and EBRA, the European federation of glass recyclers FERVER, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (Cewep), and Weeelabex, the standardisation and accreditation body for the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling sector.

In their appeal, the associations outline the dangers and risks associated with the improper disposal of battery-powered devices, and note that vapes are known to be the cause of fires in waste containers, collection vehicles and waste treatment plants. Waste e-cigarettes also contain substances that pose a huge risk to the environment. Resource conservation and public health and safety were also cited as valid reasons for a ban on the sale of disposable e-cigarettes.

The associations point out that the European Union has powers under REACh to impose restrictions on the use of devices containing substances identified as posing a risk to human health or the environment. A ban could also be introduced within the scope of other legislation and national environmental protection laws. In addition, the associations believe that legislation passed in recent years to restrict the use of other single-use products such as plastic straws or plastic bags set an important precedent for a ban on vapes.

Calls for a ban on single-use e-cigarettes are not new, with waste management and environmental associations pushing for legislation for some time now. However, according to answers by EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius to parliamentary questions last year, there are no plans in the short term to address the issue under environmental law. The EU Commission's Health directorate-general is evaluating the legislative framework for tobacco control, and this offered another route for introducing bans or restrictions.

National efforts to ban disposable vapes proposed

In the UK, the government announced plans in January to introduce a ban on the sale of disposable vapes as part of a revision of tobacco control legislation. Environmental concerns stemming from the vast quantities of littered vapes were a secondary motification for the policy decision, with the health risks, especially for young people, named as the primary justification.

Mandatory kerbside collections are among the measures supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and included in a package of proposals for the reform of the producer responsibility system for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). A consultation on these measures runs through 7 March.

In the meantime, some British waste management companies and authorities are taking matters into their own hands. England's Peterborough City Council launched its own separate collections for used batteries and disposable vapes this week after ten refuse vehicle fires occurred last year due to batteries and vapes being incorrectly discarded in standard waste collections. In Oxfordshire, bright pink bring bins were set up for vapes late last year.

Efforts are also underway in France to ban the sale of single-use e-cigarettes or "puffs".

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