Report finds disposable vapes pose environmental threat; calls for 7-Eleven, other retailers to stop sales

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Media contacts: Lucas Rockett Gutterman, Designed to Last Campaign Director, 347-466-9947, [email protected]
Mark Morgenstein, Media Relations Director, 678-427-1671,
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U.S. throws out 4.5 disposable vapes per second; electronics are a increasing pollution on beaches

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday the city has filed a lawsuit against companies illegally selling disposable vapes. A new report, “Vape Waste: The environmental harms of disposable vapes,” released Tuesday by U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund finds that this hazardous electronic waste poses a growing environmental threat. According to CDC Foundation sales estimates, lining-up the disposable vapes sold in a year would stretch for 7,000 miles—long enough to span the continental U.S. twice. Because there is no standard legal way to recycle these products, many users just toss them. “Disposable vapes have become the new poster child for our single-use, throwaway society. Tossing out lithium-ion batteries that we could recharge hundreds of times after one use doesn’t make any sense,” said Lucas Rockett Gutterman, the report author and director of U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Designed to Last campaign. “Some things are too harmful and useless to tolerate. We should ban disposable vapes.”

While cigarette butts have long been a major source of beach pollution, disposable vapes are a new and rising threat. Cigarette trash takes 10 years to degrade while disposable vapes are non-biodegradable and the single-use plastic they contain never fully degrades. In addition, manufacturing these products wastes valuable materials. The rechargeable batteries in the disposable vapes sold in a year include 23.6 tons of lithium, the amount needed to create batteries for more than 2,600 electric vehicles. 

These findings should add urgency to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to stem the unauthorized sales of disposable vapes. In June, the FDA issued warning letters to 189 retailers for selling these vapes. Advocates with U.S. PIRG Education Fund are calling on all retailers who received letters, including convenience stores with the prominent 7-Eleven, Shell, BP and Chevron brand names to comply and stop selling any disposable vapes. The report also urges the FDA to deny all pending and future requests to sell disposable vapes.

“We appreciate the FDA ramping up its enforcement efforts but too many disposable vapes are still polluting our beaches, waterways and roadsides,” said Gutterman. “Every convenience store, from the big names to local mom and pops, that stop selling these vapes help solve this problem.”

“Big tobacco has spent billions of dollars hooking a new generation of kids on nicotine while treating our environment as collateral,” said New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing. “To pad their bottom line, e-cigarette companies have flooded the market with disposable vapes that are made of plastic and powered by a lithium-ion battery, designed to be used for a few days and discarded. Not only are these colorful and inexpensive devices attracting young people, they are wreaking havoc on our environment with millions being dumped in landfills and washing up on beaches worldwide. I am proud to have led the efforts in New York State to pass laws that combat the harms of the e-cigarette industry, and I look forward to working with PIRG and other advocates to continue protecting public health and our environment from the threat that disposable vapes pose.”

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The U.S. PIRG Education Fund (Public Interest Research Group) is a 1 million-member national consumer advocacy organization that stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the public. We solve problems no one should tolerate in our age of abundance and technological innovation.