I share the concerns about disposable e-cigarettes being littered in the streets of our towns and countryside. I understand that around 1.3 million disposable vapes are thrown away every week in the UK. A significant amount of the disposable vapes thrown away each week are not recycled properly and are instead littered or discarded with residual waste.
Ministers are concerned about the increasing number of these products and their improper disposal. I am informed that officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have held discussions to help businesses understand their obligations and bring them into compliance.
I know that the Government launched a call for evidence to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children accessing and using vaping products and to explore where the Government could go further. I will continue to monitor this issue closely and look forward to reading any future proposals in relation to the use of vaping products in due course.
All vapes, including disposable vapes, fall within scope of the UK’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations. I understand that importers and manufacturers of vapes must finance the cost of collection and the proper treatment of all equipment that is disposed of through local authority household waste sites and returned to retailers and internet sellers. Producers must be registered with the Environment Agency in England.
Retailers and internet sellers of vapes have obligations under the WEEE regulations to take back used vapes on supply of new vapes to their customers. They must also make available information to their customers about how to recycle vapes. Smaller retailers can opt out of the take-back obligations if they pay into a scheme that supports local authority electricals recycling. The Environment Agency and the Office for Product Safety and Standards have been working on a programme to improve compliance.
The WEEE regulations also set minimum recycling targets for waste electrical equipment. The Government’s consultation on these regulations will consider measures aimed to increase levels of collections of waste electricals, including vapes, to ensure that more of these products are properly recycled.
Finally, local councils are responsible for keeping their public land clear of litter and refuse, and the role of central Government is to enable and support that work. Defra published a litter strategy for England in April 2017, setting out how to deliver a substantial reduction in litter and littering within a generation by focusing on education and awareness, as well as improving enforcement.