I share your concerns about disposable e-cigarettes being littered in the streets of our towns and countryside. Mid Sussex is a beautiful place to live and I am determined to keep it that way. To that end, I find it appalling around 1.3 million disposable vapes are thrown away every week in the UK. A significant amount of the disposable vapes thrown away each week are not even recycled properly and are instead littered or discarded with residual waste - this has got to change.
The Government has launched a public consultation on the Prime Minister’s proposals to create the first smoke-free generation and crack down on cheap and accessible disposable vapes. The consultation includes proposals to restrict child-friendly flavours and bright coloured packaging. These proposals will be of major benefit to the environment by tackling a particularly problematic waste stream. The consultation is open to anyone who wishes to make their views known. It is open until 6 December 2023 and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-smokefree-generation-and-tackling-youth-vaping/creating-a-smokefree-generation-and-tackling-youth-vaping-your-views#how-to-respond
Regarding the waste of vapes, I am aware that retailers that sell over £100,000 of electrical equipment per year are obliged to provide in-store takeback of electrical items, including vapes, under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations. They must also make information available to their customers about how to recycle vapes. Smaller businesses can choose to contribute funds to the distributor takeback scheme instead to ensure vapes are recycled correctly. Further, the Environment Agency and the Office for Product Safety and Standards are putting together a programme to improve compliance.
Under these regulations, producers of electrical and electronic equipment, including vapes, are required to take financial responsibility for the collection, and proper treatment the products that they place on the market when those products become waste at household waste recycling centres or are returned to retailers. Consumers that wish to dispose of their old vapes can take them to their local authority household waste recycling centre. I am informed that all vapes that are deposited at household waste and recycling centres will be collected and treated.
I can assure you that ministers and I are greatly concerned about the increasing number of these products and their improper disposal. Local councils are responsible for keeping their public land clear of litter and refuse, and the role of central Government is to enable and support that work. Defra's litter strategy sets out how to deliver a substantial reduction in litter and littering within a generation by focusing on education and awareness, as well as improving enforcement. I am informed that Defra officials have also held discussions to help businesses understand their obligations and bring them into compliance.
Finally, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has commissioned research which will better understand the market for, and environmental impacts of, disposable vapes and associated cost inputs.
Please be assured, I will continue to monitor progress closely as I appreciate that the scale of e-cigarette littering has grown rapidly.