In early 2023, Zero Waste Scotland carried out an urgent review into the environmental impacts of single-use disposable vapes on behalf of the Scottish Government. This review made nine recommendations to address concerns around this issue. However, there has so far, been a lack of research on young people’s perspectives.
It has been suggested that single-use disposable vape use amongst young people is increasing. According to a report produced by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) in August 2022, among 18 to 24 year olds in the UK, almost half of current e-cigarettes users (48%) use disposables as their main kind of e-cigarette, an increase from only 2.8% in 2021.
What are the environmental impacts of single-use disposable vapes?
Being single-use, these devices are damaging to our planet by design. But they are also cased in plastic and contain lithium-ion batteries, both of which have unique consequences for our natural environment. The Scottish Government has long recognised the dangers of single-use plastics introducing a ban on some single-use plastic products in June 2022.
But the environmental impacts of lithium-ion batteries are less well known amongst the general public. To understand these impacts, think back to what was probably one of first science experiments you did in school, dropping alkaline metals in water. One of the metals you will have used will likely have been lithium and when it was dropped in water it will have sparked and fizzed like a firework. That same chemical reaction could be happening inside bins and recycling centres across the UK causing fires and posing a threat to life.
The views of young people
In April we launched a survey to gather the views of young people on the environmental impacts of single-use disposable vapes. We chose to focus on the environmental impacts as the health impacts of vaping are currently under researched and are not unique to single-use devices.
Our survey was shared with the help of MSYPs across Scotland which allowed us to capture over 700 responses from all 32 of Scotland’s Local Authority areas in just under two weeks.
Our key finding was that 73% of the young people we consulted supported a ban on single-use disposable vapes as a way to tackle the environmental impacts of these devices.
Our research also revealed that young people in Scotland are frustrated with the lack of engagement with them on this topic so far. Many expressed that they were concerned that decision-makers would not listen to their views.
We used our research to propose the following motion to the Scottish Youth Parliament at its 79th National Sitting:
The Scottish Youth Parliament recognises the environmental impacts of single-use disposable vapes and calls upon the Scottish Government to ban these devices; further calls upon the Scottish Government to take interim actions to mitigate these impacts while working towards a ban and to meaningfully engage with young people throughout this process.Members’ Motion proposed by Marcus Flucker MSYP and Emma Prach MSYP
This was passed with the agreement of 84% of members and MSYPs collectively reported that 3,422 young people had been consulted prior to voting on the motion. This only strengthens the case for young people to be heard, and meaningfully engaged with, on this issue.
Report and Recommendations
The full details of our research can be found in a report which we have called ‘Single Use: Many Voices’. We are excited to be launching our report today and you can read it below:
Our report makes three key recommendations to decision-makers all of which were developed using our consultation. The young people we consulted told us, loud and clear, that they are ready to be heard on this issue.
Decision makers must listen. If not now? When?