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The PhD student cracking down on disposable vapes

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Francisca Rockey talks to Laura Young, an award-winning climate activist, environmental scientist, and ethical influencer, campaigning to have disposable vapes banned.

Credit: Laura Young (https://www.lesswastelaura.com/)


In recent years, vapes have become a popular tool for reducing or stopping smoking. As vapes have gained popularity, so has the market for disposable vapes.


If you’re a student then you have probably noticed the rise in use of disposable vapes amongst your peers, friends or young people in your local area. They’re everywhere. But are you aware of how damaging they are to the environment? I spoke to Laura Young, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, about her campaign to ban disposable vapes.


In late 2022, Laura was walking her dog when she noticed a vape on the floor and threw it in the bin. Each day following this, she was finding vapes everywhere. At this point, she didn’t know they were disposable and she thought, ‘what are these?’ and wanted to know what was inside them and to her horror, discovered that they were single use, disposable and a form of e-waste. We all know you’re not supposed to put batteries in the bin but what about vapes? This question and the absence of a campaigns for vapes lead her to create the ‘#BanDisposableVapes’ campaign.



According to Laura, the main environmental impact of vapes is the litter they create. Disposable vapes contain aluminum, plastic, single use plastic, foam, lithium batteries and a plastic cartilage containing nicotine and metal coil. If not disposed of correctly, the toxic chemical could infect water streams, rivers and other water sources which could have adverse effects for both human health and biodiversity.


Currently, these materials are being disposed of in park, household and sanitary bins instead of being safely recycled at local recycling centres as per Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling (WEEE) guidelines. In Dundee, all general waste goes to landfill and is incinerated and there’s risk of waste fires at landfill sites as seen at the Aberdeen recycling centre. Fires emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which will continue to warm the planet well into the future.


E-waste is also one of the fastest growing waste streams (Lepawsky, J., 2015), and for recycling centres without capacity to recycle millions of vapes, where will they end up? Likely abroad, in countries such as Ghana, where the UK is currently illegally dumping e-waste, threatening the environmental and human health of locals.


This is why Laura’s campaign is important. Not only do disposable vapes pose a health and environmental risk, they don’t align with our efforts to decrease new waste streams. If single-use plastic items are banned in Scotland, why can’t vapes?



How can students support the #BanDisposableVapes campaign?


1. If you see vapes, take a photo, post it on social media and use the hashtag, #BanDisposableVapes

2. Email your local MP, using this email template


If you would like to get involved with the campaign, head to https://www.lesswastelaura.com/ban-disposable-vapes.html


About the author: Francisca Rockey is a geographer, campaigner and writer. In April 2020, Francisca founded Black Geographers, an online community supporting the next generation of black geographers and geoscientists.

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Apr 06, 2023

#BanDisposableVapes ✊🏽

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