Disposable e-cigarettes are too valuable to throw away 0

Disposable e-cigarettes are far too valuable for the trash can

The batteries in disposable e-cigarettes could be recharged 700 times. However, tons of products currently end up in the trash. And with it a lot of valuable substances, as a British study shows.

According to a recent study, disposable e-cigarette batteries could actually be recharged hundreds of times. This is the conclusion reached by British researchers who examined lithium-ion batteries of such products.

However, these e-cigarettes currently mostly end up in the environment or in household waste, even though they are actually hazardous waste. Disposable e-cigarettes are neither refilled with liquid nor do they receive a new battery charge. The researchers present their study in the specialist journal “Joule”.

“If you use a low charge-discharge ratio, you may find that after 700 cycles you still have capacity over 90%. “It's actually a pretty good battery,” says lead author Paul Shearing, professor of sustainable energy engineering at the University of Oxford. “And they just get thrown away.”

At the same time, however, it urgently warns users not to endanger or charge the batteries themselves. “Due to the metal interior of the e-cigarette body and exposed wiring, there is a significant risk of short-circuiting the cell when removing the cell.” Disassembling the device is not safe for the user who wants to do it at home.

“The study highlights the waste of key materials caused by the sale of disposable e-cigarettes and the urgent need for government intervention,” the team writes. “To prevent the waste of valuable materials, stricter regulations are needed, either investing in recycling, reclassifying cells, or introducing a nationwide ban.”

There is currently a lively discussion in Ireland regarding an effective ban on the sale of disposable e-cigarettes at national and EU level. They are often not disposed of properly as electrical appliances, but rather with household waste and are consequently incinerated. Environment Minister Eamon Ryan also recommended their disappearance from the market.

Shearing's team also points out dangers that had been identified in previous studies with ordinary e-cigarettes: An investigation used X-ray analysis to discover potentially dangerous manufacturing defects, including foreign bodies and incorrect electrode alignment. Other studies reported injuries from e-cigarette explosions.

The current study shows that batteries sold as disposable material could potentially be used repeatedly in a second-life application. “We suspect that the batteries are being sold in this way to circumvent the safety standards required for recharging, even though they contain all the necessary materials,” conclude Shearing’s researchers.

The rapid increase in disposable e-cigarettes has led to an urgent new waste problem in Great Britain, writes the publisher Cell Press, which publishes the specialist journal “Joule”: around 1.3 million of these devices are thrown away in the country every week. This would mean that around 10,000 kilograms of lithium from e-cigarette batteries would end up in British landfills in a year. Surrounding waters would also be endangered by toxic nickel, cobalt and organic solvents.

Also in Ireland, the number of disposable e-cigarettes initially increased dramatically, now there is a change in vaping trends and an increasingly egoological approach to vaping. About 5 million devices have been sold since April 2022, according to the Alliance for Tobacco-Free Enjoyment, an e-cigarette industry interest group. It is estimated that in 2023 this number will reach 7 million.

However, according to his forecasts, in 2024 the number of disposable e-cigarettes will drop significantly. “Easy-to-use devices with batteries are a good and, above all, cheap alternative. The e-cigarette trade is now increasingly switching to reusable systems," writes the association.

Doctors warn against the consequences of using e-cigarettes in general. Consumption is probably slightly less harmful than smoking, but e-cigarette aerosol contains substances harmful to health such as formaldehyde and acrolein.

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