The use of e-cigarettes and vape products has been on the rise in the United States since their introduction in the early 2000s. Both products are generally considered by consumers to be less harmful than smoking, and have a much less pungent smell than smoking cannabis or nicotine products on their own.
Unfortunately, vape and e-cigarette products rarely include direction on how to properly dispose of the batteries required to make the products work. Below, we’ll provide some information and tips on how to dispose of these products more mindfully and responsibly.
There are many ways to enjoy cannabis and tobacco products, including smoking directly, using tinctures, and using vape pens or e-cigarettes. While the legality of cannabis is limited in certain states and still remains illegal on the federal level, e-cigarettes and alternatives to cannabis can be purchased and consumed throughout most of the country.
The packaging for vape pens and e-cigarette products, however, often fails to inform consumers about the responsible disposal of these products. Many customers just throw them in their trash or recycling bins, which can be dangerous to both the environment and human health.
Rechargeable Vape Batteries
Rechargeable vape batteries are commonly used with cannabis and tobacco products and are often more economical than disposable products, but they don’t last forever! Eventually, they stop working and have to be discarded. It’s easy for someone to dismissively toss their used vapes in the trash or recycling bins, not knowing any better. Discarding any battery in curbside trash or recycling is dangerous, but rechargeable lithium ion batteries, typically used to heat the substance in vape pens and e-cigarettes, are especially dangerous.
Lithium ion batteries are highly flammable and combustible when overheated or damaged, leading to fires in or near where they have been disposed. These fires can lead to the loss of otherwise recyclable goods and the release of dangerous toxins into the air. It can be exceptionally difficult to put lithium caused fires out, and they often reignite days after they are first extinguished. Lithium also reacts with water, creating flammable gases, and leaking batteries exposed to air or water can produce hydrofluoric acid. When these batteries end up in landfills, they are frequently exposed to moisture, heat, and have an increased possibility of damage and rupture. The long and short of all of this: do not just toss your rechargeable cartridges in the garbage!
Disposable vape products, often known as vape pens, contain a liquid concentrate of THC, CBD, blends, or nicotine. They are typically all-in-one devices, and those containing Delta 8 THC are increasingly available online. This means that not only do you need to dispose of the battery properly, but also the liquid residue inside. The title disposable leads many users to believe these items can be safely tossed in the garbage or recycling bin, but this can lead to multiple problems for the environment.
The batteries in most e-cigarettes and disposable vape pens, like the reusable batteries for separate vape cartridges mentioned above, are made with heavy metals and lithium. In addition, the chemicals used to make e-liquids in ‘vape juice’ are frequently toxic.
Nicotine is extremely toxic to the environment—poisoning plants, insects, and other animals. For this reason, it is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as acute hazardous waste. Cannabis vape pens often include chemicals like propylene glycol, which consumes oxygen and water, depleting the oxygen that aquatic organisms require to survive, as well as harmful residual solvents and pesticides. When improperly disposed of, these toxic substances may be released into the environment, adding to air, ground, and water pollution.
Many dispensaries and manufacturers accept returns of these products so they can properly treat them before sending them for disposal or recycling. Check your retailer to see if they offer any discount programs for returning products for safe recycling, as this benefit is increasingly popular in local weed shops. Some electronics and battery retailers also accept batteries for recycling, including vape batteries. Municipal waste programs are set up to accept electronic waste and hazardous substances of all sorts, including lithium-ion vape batteries and spent cartridges.
Taking used vape batteries to a drop off point that is equipped to handle these products is always your best bet, but in some cases, you may not be able to get to these facilities right away. Until you are able to get the batteries to an appropriate facility, you can process the battery to make it safer by following these steps:
- Allow the battery to completely discharge and cool down.
- Submerge the battery in cold salt water, cover it with a secure lid, and leave it submerged for two full weeks.
- After it has been submerged for two full weeks, the battery can be wrapped in paper and placed in the trash or stored to take to an appropriate collection facility later.
Batteries from vape pens and e-cigarettes can be exceptionally harmful if not disposed of properly. Returning these waste products to the manufacturer, taking them to recycling centers or hazardous waste facilities, or processing them at home before discarding them prevents both fires and environmental harm.