‘Discard old vapes properly’ | The Star


PETALING JAYA: While vape users are aware of the danger of disposing the device into general waste, they lack the idea on how to properly do it.

“There is no instruction from the manufacturers. So, I threw it together with my household trash,” said a vape user, who wished to be known as Jeronimo, 26.

A senior executive in Kuala Lumpur known as Mel, 29, said her old vape devices are piling up at her place while she figures out how and where to properly dispose of them.

“I don’t want to simply throw it away because the batteries could harm the environment,” she added.

Waste management expert Dr Theng Lee Chong said lithium batteries in ecigarettes, along with batteries used for most electronic devices, when improperly disposed of is harmful to the environment.

Theng said the battery from ewaste that usually ends up in landfills would leak and seep into ground water sources that could cause contamination and a health hazard.

He added that a long-term ewaste management plan should be put in place to address not only ecigarettes waste but also common household ewaste.

According to US-based anti-tobacco group, Truth Initiative, ecigarettes introduced plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, lead, mercury and flammable lithium-ion batteries into waterways, soil, and to wildlife.

“Ecigarettes left on the street eventually break down into microplastics and chemicals that flow into storm drains, which would pollute our waterways and wildlife,” it added.

A survey by the group revealed that only 15% of young ecigarette users, aged 15-24, in the United States reported disposing of empty pods or disposable vapes by dropping them off or sending them for electronic recycling.

With the rise of even more convenient closed-system ecigarettes, more people are disposing of the devices to general waste bins when the device could possibly be hazardous.

Closed-system or disposable vape is a type of ecigarettes that is already filled with vape liquids and easily disposed of after a certain cycle of usage.

Electronic and E-Waste Recycling (ERTH) founder and managing director Mohamed Tarek El-Fatatry said the centre received only up to two requests per month from vape users to dispose of their used devices.

“I am sure majority of disposable vape users are still disposing in general waste,” he added, whose centre is based in Cyberjaya, Selangor.

He also added that recyclers were in a dilemma as there was no efficient economic model that allows for the collection and recycling of large amounts of used vape products, while concerned of the environmental hazard it poses if disposed of as general waste.

“Our licensed processing partner indicated that disposable vapes are not recyclable and discouraged us from collecting them.

“We still accept them in small amounts on a drop-off basis but we don’t offer free pickup for them like we do for other ewaste,” he said.

Mohamed Tarek urged the government to introduce extended producers’ responsibility (EPR) to companies by forcing them to offer collection of old devices and pay the proper disposal fees.

“This will also pressure them to improve the product design to reduce the environmental pollution of their products and therefore reduce their cost of EPR compliance,” he added.

EPR is a concept in which manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment have a responsibility to ensure proper electronic waste management after the end-of-life of the product.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia public health expert, Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, said large quantity of vape waste products would potentially become hazardous to the environment.

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