Vape waste collected during the most recent beach cleanup and waste audit with Apii Nikao. TIS/22111111
Vape waste poses a particular waste problem because it falls in the categories of e-waste and hazardous waste, writes Te Ipukarea Society.
Easily recognised for being one of the most popular
substance use (or abuse) trends among teens and young adults is vaping.
It is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol
produced by an e-cigarette, vape pen, or similar devices commonly known as
Vaping is an alternative to smoking and has continued
to increase in popularity throughout the years.
E-cigarette use is very common, but there still seems
to be a smoke screen concealing its true impacts on the health of humans and the
As the vaping phenomenon continues to grow both here
and abroad, we have a new threat facing our environment, and that is vape
During the most recent beach cleanup and waste audit
with Apii Nikao, vape waste was noticed among the litter at Nikao Social Centre
E-cigarette waste is potentially more of an
environmental threat than cigarette butts, since e-cigarettes introduce
plastic, nicotine, lead, heavy metals, mercury, and flammable lithium-ion
batteries into waterways, soil, and to wildlife.
One of the major issues with vapes is how they are
being disposed of.
A pied shag (seabird) died in Wellington Zoo after
being found weak and very skinny.
Upon x-rays it was found that the bird had swallowed a
vape pen whole.
Non-biodegradable cartridges pose a choking hazard for
marine life that inadvertently consumes the plastics. This is a sad reminder to
please tidy up after yourself to ensure that seabirds don’t mistake our rubbish
Vaping remains controversial also because its
long-term health impacts are not well known.
The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) has
been suggested by some as a safer alternative to the smoking of tobacco
However, other sources say it is actually more
damaging to your health.
Vaping juices usually contain water, flavour,
nicotine, and solvents.
Nicotine is very addictive, making it very hard to
stop, even if you know you are seriously damaging your health.
Nicotine also interferes with brain development for
young people under 25.
Similar to smoking cigarettes, studies show that
e-cigarettes contain and emit a number of potentially toxic substances that
increases the risk for coughing, and wheezing.
Some of the chemicals contained in the vaping juice
can also cause cancer.
Most cancers that are caused from smoking can take
several years to develop.
However, vapours from e-cigarettes can damage human
DNA, which is a pathway to developing cancer.
E-cigarette use has also been shown to increase blood
pressure, heart-rate and the stiffness of arteries.
The inhalation of these harmful chemicals can cause
irreversible lung damage and lung disease.
But let’s get back to the environmental impacts,
because that is what we do.
Vape waste poses a particular waste problem because it
falls in the categories of e-waste and hazardous waste.
E-cigarettes won’t biodegrade, even under severe
Instead, vape pens end up being disposed of
incorrectly or left on beaches where they will end up polluting our oceans and
impacting marine life.
Emptied vape cartridges contain residual nicotine,
propylene glycol and benzoic acid. The vape pens that heat this concoction of
chemicals contain lead and mercury that leach into the sand and soil.
Vape waste is creating environmental issues such as an
increase in single-use plastics, plastic pollution, and tech waste from vape
Plastic waste is posing a threat to our oceans as more
plastic continues to make a debut on our beaches, before entering our oceans
and negatively impacting our marine life.
As the vaping industry and interest on the island
grows, so does the problem of vape waste.
Much of our plastic litter and chemical pollution of
any kind will eventually make its way out to sea, through our streams.
There is no good way to recycle vapes in the Cook
Islands. The best option is probably to save them up and wait for an e-waste