Wednesday 31 January 2024 


Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) Chief Executive Officer, Gayle Sloan congratulates the Federal Government for its tough action on vapes, which are increasingly becoming a blight on our society. However, with the seizure of 250,000 illegal vapes yesterday in Adelaide, representing 13 tonnes, it begs the question for the waste and resource recovery industry, where do these confiscated vapes safely go to be disposed?

These vapes contain batteries that are extremely difficult to remove and highly incendiary if not disposed of correctly. Whilst industry supports all efforts by the Federal Government to manage vapes being placed on market nationally, the reality is there is no national solution being developed for these once they reach end of life - which legal or illegal – they will do. 

“Currently, there is no safe disposal pathway for vapes as they contain an embedded battery, which is not included in the nationwide Battery Stewardship Scheme, B-cycle,” Ms Sloan said.  

“This means users often throw them in the rubbish bin where they are increasingly causing fires in waste trucks, processing facilities and landfills – our members are reporting multiple fires from vapes each week.”

“The Federal government are rightly controlling these being placed on markets via pharmacies to limit the damage they do, so why can't we also have them returned there for safe disposal by B-cycle, just like the successful needle take back programme? We need the whole lifecycle of this scourge managed to stop the damage they are doing to our industry. This must be done nationally not by individual states and councils.

Budget papers show that in 2023/24, the Federal Government is investing $737 million to address the harm cause by vapes – a portion of new investment this budget cycle should be allocated to fully fund the inclusion of vapes in the B-cycle collection scheme, given the knowledge and infrastructure already in place.

“WMRR calls on the Federal Government to urgently act to expand the B-cycle battery product stewardship scheme to include the disposal of vapes or risk more fires in trucks and waste and resource recovery facilities. There must be funding in the May budget for the expansion of the B-cycle scheme to include vapes,” Ms Sloan said.

“We need to protect our workers and our facilities. It is only a matter of time before one of our workers is seriously injured and we have already seen a facility destroyed by a fire started by a vape.” 

WMRR appreciates that the November 2023 Environment Ministers Meeting noted ‘common concerns around batteries across jurisdictions, particularly around lithium-ion batteries and safety risk, and noted the Queensland government will lead work across jurisdictions that might inform future regulatory actions.’

“We cannot wait any longer. Black market operators cannot and will not be part of a stewardship scheme, so that is why the Federal Government needs to fully fund an end-of-life take-back scheme like B-cycle to protect our workers and facilities,” she said.

“We have to keep these out of our bins, trucks and facilities and protect our workers and our services,” Ms Sloan said.