Vapes – otherwise known as electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or personal vaporisers – should not be put in household recycling or garbage bins.
Vapes are a hazardous waste item and a fire risk because they contain a lithium-ion battery and potentially harmful chemicals in the e-liquid. Used vapes that contain a battery should not be put in household recycling or garbage bins.
Recycling and disposal options for reusable vapes
Many reusable vapes will allow users to easily remove the battery, making them much easier to recycle or dispose of safely than single-use vapes. If you cannot remove the battery, please see disposal options for single-use vapes below.
Step 1: Remove the battery from the vape. The battery can be dropped off for recycling at one of the thousands of free collection points across the country. Put sticky tape over the battery terminals (the parts that produce electricity) to prevent fires.
Step 2: Remove the cartridge, reusable pod, and e-liquid (also known as vape juice). These components can be taken to a pharmacy to be disposed of through the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Program. Often these components can contain hazardous and toxic substances which can leach into soils and waterways when they are littered or sent to landfill. Disposing of these components through the RUM Project will ensure they are disposed of safely and responsibly.
Please do not put vape batteries in RUM Project collection bins as they are a fire risk. Call your pharmacy in advance to check if they will accept vape components.
Step 3: Put the outer container of the vape into the garbage bin.
Recycling and disposal options for single-use vapes
If the battery cannot be easily removed from the vape (because it is enclosed with no easy access points), it is likely a single-use disposable vape. Planet Ark does not recommend removing the battery yourself as lithium-ion batteries are highly flammable and can explode.
Unfortunately, not all Australians will have access to safe disposal and recycling services for single-use vapes. This is why it’s best to avoid purchasing single-use vapes, opting for a reusable device with a removable battery instead (see above for how to recycle reusable vapes).
If you cannot find a disposal option in the list below, contact your council for advice.
Canberra recycling and disposal options for single-use vapes
Canberra has two resource management centres that residents can use to drop off their hazardous waste. All kinds of vapes are accepted at these centres for safe disposal.
For residents in some LGAs in Sydney and Melbourne, Recycle Smart offers a recycling pick-up service that includes single-use and reusable vapes. Some councils pay for this service so it is free for their residents, while others will need to pay to recycle their vapes.
SPC eCycle and Ecocycle both have recycling facilities in Melbourne and Sydney that accept vapes from the public and businesses, however, there is a fee.
Perth recycling options for single-use vapes
If you’re located in the Perth metropolitan area, Perth Chemical Specialists will recycle vapes for a fee, but as they are a small team there is a minimum quantity they will accept (minimum spend including collection is $165), making it unfeasible for the average person. Jamieson’s clientele are mostly schools that need to dispose of large quantities of vapes that have been confiscated from students.
Ecocycle’s Perth facility accepts all kinds of vapes for recycling from the public and businesses, however, there is a fee and a minimum spend of $100.
All other areas of Australia
Ecocycle accepts all kinds of vapes for recycling from the public and businesses, however, there is a fee and a minimum spend of $100. Ecocycle has facilities in Adelaide, Brisbane, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and Auckland in New Zealand.
Some councils may accept vapes at Community Recycling Centres or at recycling drop-off events – check directly with your council.
What are the environmental impacts of vapes?
While there is little Australia-specific data available on vape waste, the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) estimates 844 million vapes were discarded in 2022. In the UK alone, its estimated two disposable vapes are thrown away every second. Over a year, this is enough lithium (from the batteries) to make approximately 1,200 electric car batteries.
Clean Up Australia has reported an increase in the number of vapes littered in beaches, streets, and parks. It estimates one in five clean-up sites found at least one vape in 2023. When vapes are thrown away and sent to landfill, so are the valuable and finite materials used to make them like lithium and aluminium. Vapes also contain toxic substances (such as the e-liquids which contain all sorts of chemicals), and these hazardous materials can make their way into our environment and waterways when vapes are littered or dumped in landfill.
What’s better for the environment – reusable or single-use vapes?
Using a vape of any kind is harmful to the environment, as is any product that is technically unnecessary. However, many people rely on vapes to kick their cigarette habit or to relieve stress and anxiety. If you need or want to use a vape, a reusable vape with a removable battery is a better option than a single-use vape because it is easier to recycle and safely dispose of its various components.
Reusing the same vape again and again also creates less waste and requires fewer valuable materials to be extracted from the ground than single-use vapes. And reducing the production of new vapes by reusing the same one multiple times means less water is used and fewer greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere.
Are vapes banned in Australia?
As of 1 January 2024, the importation of disposable single-use vapes are banned in Australia (subject to legislative and administrative arrangements being approved). Therapeutic vapes will be available by prescription only from medical and nurse practitioners.
The Australian Government has also proposed the following changes from 1 March 2024:
- cessation of the personal importation of vapes,
- ban on the importation of non-therapeutic vapes,
- requirement for therapeutic vape importers and manufacturers to notify the Therapeutic Goods Administration of their product’s compliance with the relevant product standards,
- requirement for importers to obtain a licence and permit from the Australian Government’s Office of Drug Control before the products are imported.