The new service means the resource management company can now facilitate the collection and transport of vapes from retailers to a recycling facility to extract the valuable materials, including lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese inside.
The recycling of these items could save more than 10 tonnes of lithium that could be recycled into new products from the batteries, equivalent to enough of the metal to make batteries for 1,200 electric cars.
Recycling the lithium would save up to 72 tonnes of carbon emissions compared to using raw materials, as producing one tonne of lithium from ore produces around nine tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Other materials in the e-cigarettes can also be recycled and this is achieved through manual dismantling, segregation, cleaning and specialist recycling of the metals, plastic and glass.
Collections will be scheduled according to demand and in order to store and transport these materials safely, Veolia will provide retailers with individual containers of vermiculite, a mineral that will minimise fire risks from the lithium-ion batteries contained within the vapes.
The first vape retailer to sign up is Totally Wicked, whose nationwide network of 154 stores will be equipped with a drop off point for consumers to recycle their used vapes. These drop off points will accept any brand and any type of disposable and rechargeable vape or e-cigarette.
Today, legislation covering the disposal of vapes and disposable e-cigarettes falls under the UK's WEEE Regulations where vapes are classed under Category 7, Toys, Leisure and Sports Equipment.
Veolia strongly supports the Environment Agency’s intention to give vapes their own product category as they pose different challenges to dismantle and recycle compared to other WEEE in the category, particularly as they contain hazardous materials such as lithium and nicotine.
Donald Macphail, chief operating officer - Treatment at Veolia UK, said: ‘Two vapes are thrown away every second. They might be called disposable, but they can and should be recycled.
‘Our new nationwide vape collection service will provide a safe recycling avenue to retailers who provide the mandatory take back schemes for vapes and ensure that we can extract the valuable materials contained within, and mitigate any fire and environmental risks.’
Liam Humberstone, technical director at Totally Wicked said: ‘We are delighted to be working with Veolia to roll out the UK’s first nationwide vape collection service. Vaping is widely recognised as the UK’s most effective means of quitting smoking, as well as being very much safer.
‘However, reducing our sector’s environmental impact remains a very important goal at Totally Wicked. We are committed not just to providing means of responsible disposal, but also urge vapers to refill, recharge and reuse their vapes in preference to single-use “disposable” products.’