Australia’s Battle with Growing Vaping Waste

Ethan Robinson 04/10/2023 Waste Management
growing vaping waste

Australia’s vaping industry is facing increasing scrutiny due to the environmental and health risks associated with its waste.

Advocates are pushing for a unified approach to address the disposal of used vaping products, emphasizing the need for manufacturers and retailers to shoulder the responsibility.

The Environmental Impact

The disposal of used vaping products has become a significant environmental concern. Many consumers are unsure about the proper disposal methods, leading to inconsistencies across regions.

Some classify these products as electronic waste, while others deem them hazardous. This confusion has resulted in a surge of hazardous fires at landfill sites, attributed to the lithium-ion batteries in vaping devices.

A recent incident saw a recycling truck in Benalla, north-east Victoria, catch fire due to an improperly discarded vaping device.

Shannon Cooper, a resource recovery coordinator, highlighted a case where a vaping device’s batteries sparked a fire inside a recycling truck. Quick action by the driver, who was also a firefighter, prevented further damage.

Benalla’s mayor, Bernie Hearn, stressed the importance of removing batteries from vapes before disposal. He emphasized that such e-waste should never end up in landfills or recycling bins.

Industry Growth and Its Implications

A report from the NSW environmental watchdog highlighted the rapid growth of the vaping industry, with sales jumping from $28.3 million in 2015 to $98.1 million in 2020. The waste industry is urging the government to step in.

Gayle Sloan, CEO of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia, emphasized the risks these products pose, from starting fires to endangering children. She believes the onus should be on the companies producing these items.

Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, shared that the government aims to reduce vaping rates through stringent laws.

Recently, a proposal was made to ban non-therapeutic and single-use vapes. While waste policies fall under state and territory jurisdictions, the federal government can play a pivotal role in guiding these policies.

Seeking Solutions

Pip Kiernan, who leads Clean Up Australia, believes consumers shouldn’t be burdened with the complexities of waste classification. She advocates for a national standard, suggesting a system similar to the container deposit schemes.

In these schemes, consumers pay an upfront fee when purchasing a product and receive a refund upon returning the container. Kiernan points out that beverage companies bear the financial responsibility in such models.

The vaping industry’s waste problem in Australia is multifaceted, encompassing environmental, health, and regulatory challenges. A unified strategy, involving both the industry and the government, is crucial to address these concerns effectively.

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  • Ethan Robinson

    Ethan is a content editor with a background in environmental journalism. He’s an enthusiastic home cook and collector of vintage records.

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