Recycling contractors find it challenging to identify and address the risk of single use vapes at the bin collection stage, Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan has revealed.
The vapes are instead being picked up on the sorting line even though they are banned from recycling bins.
And on top of that there is the ever present danger of the highly flammable lithium-ion batteries within the vape causing fires in waste service trucks, she said.
O’Regan and National Party MPs Barbara Kuriger (Taranaki-King Country) and Louise Upston (Taupō) have responded to e-waste provider Urban Miners’ comments saying single use vapes should never have been allowed in New Zealand because of the impact they are having on the environment.
“National has been saying for ages that New Zealand’s vape settings are not fit for purpose,” said Upston.
“Using vaping to help people quit smoking is a bit like introducing ferrets to New Zealand to eradicate rabbits. We still have rabbits, but now we have ferrets which are vicious predators and a pest of a different kind.”
Kuriger said single use vapes went against all the current expectations of reuse and recycling.
“They were supposed to be a vice to assist people to give up smoking cigarettes and have turned into the latest fad. Responsibility to find an acceptable disposal method needs to be placed on the producers of the product,” she said.
O’Regan said when single-use vapes are found in recycling, wheelie bins are considered “contaminated.”
“Any single use item is not the way we want to see manufacturing going, especially items that are made out of multiple types of material that are melded together and not easily separated.”
If Urban Miners could not break them down, vape users should consider the landfill impact and opt for re-usable vapes instead, she said.
Waipā has a Smoke and Vape free policy aimed at reducing smoking and vaping behaviours in public places.
“Unfortunately, at this stage we cannot enforce this through a bylaw, so we have chosen to advance an education and public opinion approach to this issue,” said O’Regan.
Current legislation does not provide the council with many options to regulate vape shops.
“Council can apply some controls on retailers via the District Plan that limits commercial activities to the appropriate zones, but this is unlikely to extend as far as limiting the products sold.
“Council may have some ability to restrict sales on land it owns or manages, potentially including mobile sellers in public places, but regrettably these measures are limited,” she said.
“From an entirely personal perspective, I find vaping and the sale of these goods dreadful.
“The long-term health impacts of these things are unknown and as many of them contain nicotine using them can become extremely addictive.
“This is very troubling and the proliferation of the shops selling them in our district proves the vaping habit is steadily rising.”