While the recent focus on electronic cigarettes and vaping products has been on their potential health effects on users, the Illinois EPA is looking at a potential new issue – the improper disposal of their waste products.
A team at the Illinois EPA is developing methods to prevent toxic materials in discarded e-cigarettes and vaping products from polluting the environment and damaging human health. E-cigarettes and vaping products contain numerous materials, each with various waste regulations. E-cigarettes, which are disposable and closely resemble a traditional cigarette, contain a battery, a nicotine cartridge and a metal atomizer that turns the nicotine liquid into vapor. Vape pens are larger and contain a rechargeable battery, a tank for liquid, electronic display screen and vaporizing coil. Disposable vape pods, which are shaped like flash drives, are another waste product associated with vaping devices.
Used nicotine packages are classified as hazardous waste by Illinois law, but as the general public are largely unaware of those regulations, the packages are routinely disposed of with regular trash. As the used nicotine packages accumulate in landfills, they pose an increasing hazard for leaching into groundwater.
To combat this knowledge deficit, Illinois EPA is looking to create fact sheets to be posted online and at vape shops. After publishing those educational materials, the Illinois EPA wants to work with vape shops to create approved disposal methods. One possibility is for the shops to dismantle used vape pens to be disposed of properly.
Depending on the scope of those regulations, other businesses throughout Illinois may need to start programs to collect or store the vaping products, in order to prevent them from migrating to landfills. Those regulations may also create potential liabilities for businesses that improperly allow vaping waste products to enter a landfill and cause groundwater contamination. As has been the case with the potential health effects associated with vaping products, this area is rapidly developing and ripe for potential pitfalls, compliance issues, and liabilities.