Trinity student startup calls on public to submit to consultation on disposable vapes

Registration to partake in the consultation is open until July 27 and asks for ideas on how the State should deal with disposable e-cigarettes.

Student start-up VapeBox is calling on students to submit to a government consultation on disposable vapes.

The consultation, established by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, is open until July 27 and asks for ideas on how the State should deal with disposable e-cigarettes.

VapeBox co-founders Katelyn Davis and Lucy Daly said students need to be more aware of the environmental effects of not disposing of vapes properly.

“[Students are] storing vapes as they have nowhere to recycle them”, Daly said.

“In an ideal world we wouldn’t have massive battery waste”, Davis said. “You won’t throw a battery in the bin so why throw a vape?”

VapeBox was established to help highlight the harmful effects disposable vapes can have on the environment when not disposed of properly.

A recent report by Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in the US found that while cigarette butts have become less common, discarded vapes have come to increasingly litter beaches and waterways, a replacement that has seen pollution go “from bad to worse”.

“While cigarette pollution takes up to 10 years to degrade, disposable vapes are non-biodegradable and ‘endanger ocean creatures that inadvertently consume the plastics’,” the report said.

According to research from 2018, disposable vapes are seen to “pose the highest potential environmental costs” of any type of e-cigarette because they aren’t used as long as refillable models. A US-based survey last year found that just 8% of young people sent their used vapes to electronic recycling facilities, with a majority discarding them in general waste bins.

VapeBox advocates for a deposit and return system to be introduced in pubs and other public spaces so they can be recycled properly.

Following a trial in the Pavillion Bar, the project has collected 500 vapes so far. This figure does not include drop off trials which were also conducted.

VapeBox was a 2023 finalist of the Trinity Entrepreneurial Society’s Dragon’s Den, and were part of the Enactus TCD team that won this year’s Enactus Ireland National Competition. As part of Enactus TCD, VapeBox is one of three projects which will represent Ireland at the Enactus World Cup in Utrecht in October.

They are set to expand their collection boxes in the coming academic year to further the smoking locations across campus along with increasing their roll out to pubs, nightclubs and festivals.

The lithium-ion batteries found within disposable electronic vapes can pose health and safety risks to waste collection workers along with negatively impacting the environment.

Aoibhinn Clancy

Aoibhínn Clancy is the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.