A Dundee student calling for a ban on disposable vapes says she is “shocked” after collecting 55 of the colourful plastic tubes during a one-hour walk in the city.
Climate activist Laura Young took to the streets with a plastic bag on Sunday morning to see how many of the littered devices she would find.
She was dismayed to discover about one per minute on her journey from the West End to the city centre and back.
The 26-year-old documented the findings of her “disposable vape hunt” in a Twitter thread.
55 “disposable” vapes found littered in an hour ❌💨 #BanDisposableVapes ❌💨 A distance of 4 miles across Dundee.
People kept asking how many I find…now I have a more concrete answer. It’s about 1 per minute walking… pic.twitter.com/PDCa23zyUz
— Laura Young (@LessWasteLaura) January 8, 2023
Laura started a campaign to ban disposable vapes, which can damage the environment, after regularly spotting them on the streets of her home city Glasgow last year.
She moved to Dundee in October to pursue a PhD in climate science between the University of Abertay and the University of Dundee.
She told The Courier: “One of the most common questions I get asked is how many I find.
‘Bundles’ of vapes found around nightclubs, bars and takeaways
“So today I thought, ‘Why don’t I just go on a walk and see how many I find’.
“I managed to find 55 in an hour – about one per minute – and there were certain times I would find bundles of them.
“I thought that was quite shocking.”
She says the areas around nightclubs, bars and takeaway joints were the worst-hit.
Disposable vapes contain valuable materials including lithium batteries and copper, as well as plastic.
This means they are classed as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and should be disposed of at household recycling centres.
Laura highlights that incorrect disposal of the items can potentially release hazardous chemical waste into the environment.
In particular, incorrect battery disposal can cause fire and health and safety risks at landfill sites.
Laura is working with organisations Keep Scotland Beautiful, Marine Conservation Society and Ash Scotland to put pressure on the UK and Scottish Governments to ban disposable vapes.
She said: “We are thinking about putting together a open letter for the Scottish Government.
“We are also considering pulling together a petition.
“The dream would be that these things get banned but meantime people can use reusable vapes. There could be something like collection points for disposable vapes outside nightclubs and takeaways.”
Dundee councillors support ban on disposable vapes
Liberal Democrat councillor Michael Crichton, who represents the West End, said: “Disposable vapes are causing a real and very negative problem.
“It is not just litter – these are unnecessary electrical items that contain single use plastic, nicotine and batteries, all of which are hazardous to the environment and wildlife when littered.”
His West End colleague Bailie Fraser Macpherson said: “We agree with Laura – these should be banned.
“Disposable vapes cause harm to the wildlife and are wasting valuable resources.
“Scottish Government ministers must act swiftly to ban disposable vapes to protect young people and our environment from this new and entirely avoidable threat.”