E-Cigarette and Vape Product Disposal

Jan. 9, 2024

There have been findings indicating potential harmful environmental and health effects of electronic cigarette product disposal. Particularly with single-use e-cigarettes and vape products, there are concerns about the impacts of waste due to the material composition of these products. These types of products may qualify as both e-waste and biohazard waste, and more information about their disposal can be accessed from the specific companies that produce these products. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines hazardous waste as any solid material that is capable of having harmful effects on the health of people or the environment. E-cigarettes contain plastic, heavy metals, flammable lithium-ion batteries, and other harmful materials that leach into waterways and soil once they are disposed of. These components do not biodegrade like organic compounds. Instead, they will break down into harmful microplastics.   

When handling e-cigarette waste for disposal:

  • Place all parts in a securely sealed storage container or bag
  • Transport to a local hazardous waste disposal site which can be found here
  • Do not rinse or throw e-liquids in the sink or toilet
  • Avoid throwing away any e-cigarette components in the trash or recycling

The environmental and health impacts of electronic tobacco products versus cigarettes is an interesting comparison. An estimated two-thirds of the world’s 6.25 trillion plastic cigarette butts are littered annually, clogging sewer drains, blighting city parks, and costing billions of dollars to clean up each year. A press release from the Center for Disease Control showed e-cigarette monthly unit sales increased by 46.6%—from 15.5 million units in January of 2020, to 22.7 million units in December of 2022. This increase has serious implications for hazards and pollution because of inappropriate product disposal. 

When littered or improperly discarded, broken e-cigarette devices can release heavy metals, battery acid, and nicotine into the local environment. This can have a damaging impact on humans and other organisms. In the future, the best way to combat this issue is to increase producer responsibility with the companies who create these products to decrease the amount and toxicity of e-cigarette waste. Until this occurs, disposing of e-cigarette and vape waste in a safe manner is beneficial to the health of the community and the environment. 

Additional Resources can be found here:
  1. Information about e-cigarettes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found here.
  2. Smoking cessation resources from the Arizona Department of Health Services can be accessed here.
  3. Information on quitting tobacco from the University of Arizona can be found here.