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Deposit system for recycling disposable e-cigarettes

Image credit: https://stopswithme.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/29451-TSET-21-02-TSWM-Kids-Vaping-Blogs_F3-1.jpg; https://www.safetysign.com/products/5856/deposit-recyclables-here-sign

Povilas S
Povilas S Jan 08, 2022
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A deposit-refund system for bringing back disposable e-vapes to dedicated collecting points for them to be properly recycled.
E-cigarettes are very popular these days and while many people smoke reusable vapes, disposable e-cigarettes, like Whoop, Halt and others are perhaps equally as popular. Disposable ones are convenient because you don't have to worry about changing e-liquids, cartridges, coils, etc., it's a "buy, smoke, and dispose of" way of consuming, this results in an increase of improperly disposed of, not recycled waste.
Apart from plastic parts, disposable vapes have electronics and batteries in them that can't be disposed of in an ordinary manner or even recycled with plastics. They'd have to be disposed of in dedicated places collecting electronic waste. And as you can rightly guess, very little to no people do this. The proposed solution has the following benefits:
  • Less improperly disposed waste, more recycled materials
  • Teaches responsibility to consumers
  • Also good for e-cig businesses due to improved eco-image
  • Increased price (even if due to deposit) of nicotine products may lower their consumption
Disposable vapes are already expensive compared to reusable ones, it costs considerably more to keep buying single-use e-cigarettes rather than buy a reusable one and just refill it with e-liquid and change the coil from time to time. Adding a deposit on top of that would first make the consumers rethink their choices and second force them to dispose of e-cig waste properly.
How it works:
It would work in the same manner as deposit systems for recycling plastic and glass bottles and metal cans present in some countries. The receiving part could be automated using deposit return machines as is often the case with beverage containers.
When buying a disposable e-cigarette, the customer would pay a slight additional fee (a deposit) to be refunded when they bring the emptied product to the collecting point. The larger the deposit, the more motivation the customers have to bring it back.
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General comments

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni17 days ago
I support the cause and the steps you intend to take to solve it. However, why do we need a separate system for e-cigarettes? In general, electric items do have a separate system in many places. And every electric item has certain components that are unique and need special disposal treatment. E-cigarettes do not make even the average revenue of electric goods in general. Won't it be difficult financially, then, to generate and sustain a collection and recycling system only for that item? Why not build an e-waste collection system and extract e-cigarettes as a by-product of the entire process? You can then treat the e-cigarettes differently (recycle and add a deposit and refunding system). I think it would be cheaper and your idea could still be incorporated into it. All I am saying is expanding this (deposit-refund system) to all electric goods could make it more sustainable.
Or a cheaper and separate method (only for e-cigarettes) would be to allow all dealers of e-cigarettes to collect them back and give a refund. The manufacturing company will then pay the dealers and take the waste from them. I remember seeing this system even for glass bottles in some regions. Your earlier idea could be useful here.
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Povilas S
Povilas S16 days ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Yes, the dealers (sellers) could accept e-cigarettes and give the refund deposit to the customers too, it doesn't matter what accepts them, the idea is to simply reduce improperly disposed waste and encourage recycling.
About the deposit for all electronic waste - it could be done, but this might be a bit complicated because of a few reasons, first - electronic items vary greatly in sizes and prices, so the deposits should be adapted accordingly to each item, also it's complicated to bring heavy devices to a collecting point, you need a car, plan ahead, etc., also, big devices like computers need a lot of space to be kept in some container where people go and drop them at, maybe laptops not so much, but imagine TVs and washing machines. You'd need an open-air lot for this.
In Lithuania such lots for collecting big size domestic waste exists, just nobody pays you to bring them, in fact, you have to pay sometimes. Anyway, you see the complication with all electronics deposit-refund system, the system would have to be complex, it's feasible, but not very convenient.
With disposable e-cigarettes, on the other hand, it's way more simple, they are small in size and something you can collect in a bag and just take to the collecting point and get a few euros back, so it's similar like with bottles, I'd say even more convenient because they take less space. For many bottles, you need huge bags. In Lithuania, one disposable e-cigarette costs around 6 euros (depending on the brand, but just let's say), so if you'd add 50 euro cent deposit to this, people would surely have enough motivation to bring them back, for 20 of those you'd get 10 euros back.
If 50 cent deposit seems too much, I can just say that you can easily be charged 50 cents more for the same e-cigarette if you buy it not in a kiosk or a supermarket, but in, for example, a cafe and you don't get anything back for this, but people still buy the more expensive ones, because they don't care, they are lazy to go to the supermarket, etc.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni16 days ago
Povilas S I understand. So do such e-cigarette recycling plants exist? Where they carefully dismantle the cigarette and dispose or reuse or recycle the appropriate parts.
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Povilas S
Povilas S14 days ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I don't think so. Not specifically for e-cigs at least, as far as I know. So that's part of the idea, to establish something like that. You don't really need specialized recycling plants for e-cigarettes, you just need to dismantle them and separate electronics from plastic parts. The recycling part can be done by other parties.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni12 days ago
Povilas S What I want to know is how much of the system you propose is already in place, even in parts. If more parts are already in place, it will reduce the cost of establishing newer ones and make the idea more feasible. Currently, the economy seems to be the only problem here, according to me. If it, currently, costs them 0.5 euros to make 1 e-cigarette apart from the materials used, the system you propose should collect, dismantle, and make reusable parts available at the manufacturing site within 0.5 euros. This is including everything from manual work to transportation. Otherwise, it may not be feasible.
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