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Cartridges, Batteries, E-Liquids — What's the Proper Disposal Etiquette?

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There is no doubt that analog cigarette butts result in some of the largest littering problems in the country (38% of the world’s littering problem), and if disposed of properly, e-cigarette cartridges, batteries and e-liquids can help reduce the waste problem — another positive of making the switch to vaping. However, proper disposal is key, and we’re here to remind vapers of great ways to do so safely.

Centers for Disease Control’s 2014 numbers shows that 3.7% of Americans vaped that year, amounting to more than 9 million people — and we know that number is much larger today. Hazardous Waste Experts says that e-cigarettes should be disposed of as hazardous waste, but what exactly does that mean? The three main elements: the cartridge, the e-liquid and the battery, all consist of differing ways of disposal. Hazardous Waste Experts says that “e-cigarettes are doubtless more eco-friendly than their conventional counterparts. But two ‘vape’ components — the cartridge and the lithium ion battery — require hazardous waste removal.”

Regular Disposal of Cartridges
Proper disposal of cartridges, according to Hazardous Waste Experts, “requires moving the filler material, rinsing it under running water until all nicotine residues are removed, and then wrapping it in a scrap of biodegradable material.” Rinse the cartridge as well and seal it with the original plug. Then, and only then, is it an eco-friendly way to dispose of as plastic waste — unless your jurisdiction requires otherwise.

Recycling Cartridges
Due to concentration amounts of nicotine, many jurisdictions require hazardous waste management removal — and many times this is an easier route than trying to do it yourself. Find recycling programs nearest you for more information on e-liquid and nicotine disposal.

Lithium Ion Battery Disposal
Do not, we repeat, do not throw lithium ion batteries into the trash or even recycling bins. Dry paper and cardboard do not mix with heat from batteries, in fact, Hazardous Waste Experts says that this is one of the leading causes of recycling truck fires. Instead, fully discharge the battery, cool it, then submerge it in cold saltwater for two weeks covered with a lid. Then and only then can you wrap them in newspaper and trash them. However, the easier and safer way is to recycle at a nearby electronic waste disposal place or retail store.

Shelly Fuller, Colorado-based Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management facility program manager, told Denver ABC 7 that the facility has a new challenge — vaping products that are coming in by the pound.

“In the last couple months, we’ve received about five pounds of e-liquid. This year, we’ve already received 40 pounds of batteries from vaping devices,” she says.

Fuller says that vaping products shouldn’t be thrown into recycling bins or trash cans at all by the general public, that they need to be taken to proper hazardous materials facilities. Her main concern is nicotine, which is considered a P-listed waste, or acute hazardous waste. Therefore, pods “need to be put in a toxins bin and shipped off with other poisons or pesticides to a facility to incinerate it.”

Batteries are another concern, which have caused some fires at the local recycling facility.

“We’re hoping to bring awareness to the batteries and making sure that people don’t just throw them in the trash,” Fuller says. “We’re trying to develop some guidance and be a resource for people.“

Fuller and other employees are doing their part. In fact, just last summer they visited 10 vape stores across the country to both get educated on vaping products and to give out information on hazardous waste removal.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right. If you’re going to use these products dispose of them properly,” she told Denver ABC 7. “It’s not the most convenient, but at least you have an option. As times change, we need to keep up with the times. It’s just something that we need to keep up with as a society and make sure that we have options so that we have a place for future generations.”