Dundee City Council has backed a proposed ban on the sale of disposable vapes after hearing how some retailers ignore their legal obligations.
The decision was reached, without division, after a six month campaign by climate activist and environmental science PhD student, Laura Young.
Laura exposed the shocking amount of litter caused by people discarding the devices on the streets of Dundee.
A Twitter post revealed she picked up plastic packaging, mouthpieces and batteries from tossed-aside e-cigarettes at a rate of one per minute during a four mile walk.
Laura gave a talk on the issue at the local authority’s online policy and resources committee on Monday evening.
A motion put forward by the Liberal Democrat group was backed by all members.
The council’s chief executive, Gregory Colgan, will now write to Lorna Slater, Scottish Government Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity calling for a ban on sales of disposable vapes across Scotland “as soon as practicable”.
A letter will also be sent to Iain Gulland, executive director and chief
executive officer at Zero Waste Scotland.
In her speech to the committee, Laura spoke of the dangers of fires from dumped lithium batteries, and the negligence of retailers failing to follow the law.
‘Wouldn’t it be great?’
She said: “Wouldn’t it be great if retailers had collection boxes for these things? Ah, it would be great. And that is actually what the regulation is just now.
“But you will not find collection points at retailers who sell single use disposable vapes.
“And that is a failure when it comes to WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) regulations.”
According to the UK Government, these laws are to “reduce the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment incinerated or sent to landfill sites.”
This is supposed to be done by means of “recovery, reuse and recycling of products and components.”
It further states on the UK government website that among those who should comply are “distributors (including retailers) who make EEE available on the UK market, including by distance selling.” The laws came into force in 2014.
‘A big fat nothing’
SNP councillor for Coldside, Heather Anderson reminded the committee that the Scottish Government has commissioned an “urgent review” on disposable vapes.
She asked Laura if she’d approached the UK government on the issue “because the whole regulation of trade is something they might have something to say on.”
Laura replied: “Yup. And I’ve pretty much had a big fat nothing!”
She said when her campaign started, she first contacted her MP in Glasgow, Kirsten Oswald, SNP member for East Renfrewshire.
Laura said Ms Oswald put written and oral questions to the UK Government and hosted a debate on the “environmental impacts” of the vapes.
Laura said the response was: “We have this thing called WEEE regulations; we just need to make sure people are complying that – in theory if we got it right – it should be the solution. We know that’s not the case.”
Laura added: “I would, of course, have loved this to have been a UK effort, a UK campaign, fighting the bigger battle, but unfortunately, we just weren’t getting anywhere when it came to Westminster.”
‘I hope this inspires’
Following the meeting, Laura said: “The council seemed determined to hold companies accountable for their failings to comply with waste and trading standards regulations, alongside thinking creatively about addressing some of the environmental and public health concerns, particularly with young people.
“I hope this inspires more councils to join in this call for the Scottish Government to ban disposable vapes.”