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J&B News & Updates

Vape WEEE toy category

Separate WEEE category proposed for vapes


In the ever-evolving world of waste management and recycling, a significant development has emerged that could fundamentally alter how we handle the disposal of vape devices. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is spearheading a proposal under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations to address a long-standing issue: the disposal costs of vape devices.

Understanding the Current Landscape

Presently, vapes fall under 'category 7' of the WEEE Regulations, grouping them with toys and leisure equipment. This classification has been a point of contention, especially within the recycling industry, as it doesn’t accurately reflect the complexities and costs associated with vape disposal. Industry estimates have highlighted a stark contrast in recycling costs: while other items in this category cost between £35-£270 per tonne, vapes can cost an eye-watering £13,000-£20,000 per tonne. As an empty vape weighs on average 10g this is equivalent to a cost 16p per vape to recycle it. This represents 4% of the average retail price.

The Toll on Recycling Companies

As a recycling company, J&B Recycling is acutely aware of these challenges. The financial burden of this disparity falls heavily on us. We are obligated to segregate vapes that are incorrectly put into household recycling, so that they can be sent to the correct type of recycling facility, a task that is not only environmentally necessary but also increasingly costly. Our projections estimate that this could amount to over £100,000 in expenses in 2024 alone. Vapes disposed of incorrectly by the public also has hidden costs, they present a fire risk. There are many instances of bin wagons, waste transfer sites and sorting plants catching fire due to a vape or similar lithium battery powered devices igniting when discarded amongst other waste. This presents a risk to life and livelihoods of people working in the waste industry and increased costs of insurance policies.

The Proposed Change: A New Category for Vapes

In a bid to address these disparities, Defra’s consultation proposes creating a distinct category for vapes. This move is designed to ensure that vape producers bear the full cost of their product’s end-of-life management. This change is not just a minor tweak in categorisation; it’s a significant shift towards making the vape industry accountable for the environmental footprint of their products.

The Debate: Who Should Bear the Responsibility?

The issue of responsibility is a heated one. There are voices within the vape industry pushing for retailers to shoulder the burden, citing their profit margins. However, at JB Recycling, we firmly believe that the onus should lie with the vape producers. It is their products that are creating this unique waste management challenge, and thus, they should be responsible for the environmental impact.

The Broader Implications

This proposed change is part of a wider review of the WEEE regulations, reflecting a growing recognition of the need for more nuanced and responsible waste management practices. The staggering volume of vapes being discarded – nearly five million per week in the UK – underscores the urgency of this issue.

Looking Ahead

This development is a positive step towards more sustainable and fair waste management practices. It acknowledges the unique challenges posed by certain products and ensures that those who benefit from their production also bear the responsibility for their disposal. As a recycling company committed to environmental stewardship, J&B Recycling welcomes this move and looks forward to a future where all sectors are held accountable for their environmental impact and profits generated by the manufacturers and retailers of vapes aren’t being made at the expense or detriment of the waste industry.


The consultation ends on 7th March 2024. You can get involved in the process by taking the online survey.

At JB Recycling, we're dedicated to staying at the forefront of sustainable waste management practices, and we will continue to provide updates on these regulatory changes and their impact on our operations and the broader recycling industry.

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