Disposable vapes can’t be reused, recycled, or trashed. So what happens to them?

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. vaping / ˈveɪ pɪŋ / (n.) – the act of using an e-cigarette that allows someone to inhale steam from heated liquid instead of smoke

    He switched to vaping because he believes it is safer than smoking.

  2. get rid of (something) / gɛt rɪd əv / (idiom) – to remove something that is no longer useful or wanted

    I have to get rid of my old clothes so I can have more space for new ones.

  3. hazardous / ˈhæz ər dəs / (adj.) – relating to something that causes harm or damage

    The cleaning product was removed from stores because it contains hazardous chemicals.

  4. alarming / əˈlɑr mɪŋ / (adj.) – causing fear and worry

    He received an alarming call from a nurse saying that his mother was in the hospital.

  5. skirt / skɜrt / (v.) – to avoid something, usually because it is difficult and may cause problems

    The teacher asked him about his homework, but he skirted the question and said he had a headache.


Read the text below.

With the growing popularity of disposable e-cigarettes, communities across the U.S. are confronting a new vaping problem: how to safely get rid of millions of small, battery-powered devices that are considered hazardous waste.

For years, the debate surrounding vaping largely centered on its risks for high school and middle school students enticed by flavors like gummy bear, lemonade, and watermelon.

But the recent shift toward e-cigarettes that can’t be refilled has created a new environmental dilemma. These single-use devices containing nicotine, lithium, and other metals cannot be reused or recycled and, under federal environmental law, aren’t supposed to go in the trash.

U.S. teens and adults are buying roughly 12 million disposable vapes per month. With little federal guidance, local officials are finding their own ways to dispose of e-cigarettes collected from schools, colleges, vape shops, and other places.

“So the destruction of vapes when it comes to destroying it, we classify it as a hazardous material. So an average barrel for us, which takes about 1200 vapes costs us about $1400 to destroy the product,” said New York Sheriff Anthony Miranda, who leads a task force on the issue.

“The sheer volume of what’s being sold right now or what we’re finding on the streets is something that says that this is an alarming number,” Miranda said.

Vaping critics say the industry has skirted responsibility for the environmental impact of its products, while federal regulators have failed to force changes that could make vaping components easier to recycle or less wasteful.

Among the possible changes are: federal standards requiring that e-cigarettes be reusable or that manufacturers fund collection and recycling programs. New York, California, and several other states have so-called extended product responsibility laws for computers and other electronics. But those laws don’t cover vaping products and there are no comparable federal requirements for any industry.

Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) tobacco chief, Brian King, said in a statement that his agency “will continue to carefully consider the potential environmental impacts” of vaping products.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • According to the article, the extended product responsibility laws in which companies are responsible for the disposal and environmental impact of their products are limited to computer and electronic companies for now. Why do you think the laws are limited to the said industries? What other industries do you think should also follow these laws (ex. food, clothing)? Why? Discuss.
  • Do you like your government’s approach to waste disposal and environmental practices? Why or why not? What environmental practices do you think your city should improve on (ex. recycling, reducing plastic)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The article mentions that there has been an ongoing concern about the popularity of vaping among high schoolers and teenagers. Why do you think this issue still persists (ex. laws are not strictly implemented, companies deliberately target them)? Discuss.
  • Why do you think teenagers still want to vape or smoke despite all the information available about its risks (ex. they think it’s cool, they are curious)? Does this happen in your country as well? Why or why not? Discuss.