REPORT: Disposable vapes pose environmental threat; most disposable vape sales unauthorized

    A new report, “Vape Waste: The environmental harms of disposable vapes,” released on July 13th by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center finds that this hazardous electronic waste poses a growing threat to our environment in Pennsylvania and globally. According to CDC Foundation sales estimates, lining-up the disposable vapes sold in a year would span the continental U.S. twice. Because there is no standard legal way to recycle these products, many users just toss them. 

    “Disposable vapes have become the new poster child for our single-use, throwaway society. Tossing out lithium-ion batteries that we could recharge hundreds of times after one use doesn’t make any sense,” said Faran Savitz, zero waste advocate with the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “Some things are too harmful and useless to tolerate. It’s time for the U.S. to ban disposable vapes.”

    While cigarette butts have long been a major source of beach pollution, disposable vapes are a new and rising threat. Cigarette trash takes 10 years to degrade while disposable vapes are non-biodegradable and the single-use plastic they contain never fully degrades. In addition, manufacturing these products wastes valuable materials. The rechargeable batteries in the disposable vapes sold in a year include 23.6 tons of lithium, the amount needed to create batteries for more than 2,600 electric vehicles. 

    These findings should add urgency to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to stem the unauthorized sales of disposable vapes. In June, the FDA issued warning letters to 189 retailers for selling these vapes. Advocates with the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center are calling on all retailers who received letters, including convenience stores with the prominent 7-Eleven, Shell, BP and Chevron brand names to comply and stop selling any disposable vapes. The report also urges the FDA to deny all pending and future requests to sell disposable vapes.

    Last year, then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Juul, one of the largest manufacturers of vapes, had come to a $38.8 million settlement with the Commonwealth over violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. The settlement included limits on the marketing and sales of Juul’s vapes in Pennsylvania.

    The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center calls on both the General Assembly to follow suit of other states like California that have implemented policies to ban the sale of unauthorized vapes, and the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to support H.R. 901 which would require the FDA to strengthen its requirements for electronic nicotine delivery devices.

    “We appreciate the FDA ramping up its enforcement efforts but too many disposable vapes are still polluting our parks, neighborhoods, waterways and roadsides,” said Savitz. “Every convenience store, from the big names to local mom and pops, that stop selling these vapes will help solve this problem.”



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