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The Disposable Vape Problem, And Alternatives to Consider

disposable vape
Written by Sarah Friedman

Now that vaping is the big thing, there are certainly a lot of vapes around. In some places, you’ll see used-up batteries or cartridges lying on the street. How good is it for us or our environment to have so much vape waste? The disposable vape issue is growing and requires some better alternatives.

The disposable vape trend proposes several issues, and there aren’t as many current alternatives as there should be. In the future, more options hopefully will become available to the vaping public. This news publication specializes in reporting on the cannabis and psychedelics industries, which you can be a part of by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter. Along with general updates, this will put you in first place for a range of deals on various cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC. As a reminder, we never promote anyone buy a product they are uncomfortable with using.

What’s a vape cart?

A vape cart is a small container that’s filled with oil, and then attached to a battery, which heats the oil to produce a vapor. The cartridges are usually made of polycarbonate plastic, but can also be made of other materials like stainless steel, ceramic, or glass. The cartridge contains a metal coil, called an atomizer, and metal solders as well. The coil heats up to heat the oil in the cartridge.

The cartridge is attached to a battery device, which usually is a 510 threaded, lithium-ion battery. Exceptions include pods, and some carts which require bigger batteries. Though not all 510 threaded batteries work with all carts made for 510 threaded, for the most part, if that’s what you buy, they’ll work together. When buying a disposable, its all one piece, and nothing has to be attached.

Many batteries are rechargeable, and simply need to be plugged in every so often before vaping again. These batteries go with individual cartridges that are bought separately, and which are generally disposable, even if the battery is not. The other option is a disposable cartridge which comes attached to a disposable battery, which all gets tossed upon completion. These are cheaper than rechargeable vapes when buying one at a time, but tend to be bought more frequently. Their main benefit is that they don’t require traveling with hardware, as they can be picked up on the go.

disposable vape cart

Obviously we are a world of trash-producers, and we know this by our streets lined with litter, and our overflowing trashcans. Despite recycling programs, our continued use of disposable products is leading to massive environmental issues in our oceans, ground soil, and air. And this isn’t helped along by the increase in tech waste that’s joined the standard papers, and plastics of life. So imagine how not helpful it is that we’re throwing away cartridges and batteries like their nothing, even considering that batteries were never supposed to go with regular trash anyway.

The disposable vape problem is growing, as vaping grows in popularity. There are, however, some alternatives, that can help bring down the waste, as well as offer healthier, and more cost-efficient options, in the long term.

Disposable vape alternatives

For one thing, the vape carts themselves propose issues. Most are made of plastic, and they often contain metal that we now know leaches into the vape oil. Generally speaking, disposable products are of lesser quality than reusable products. Product makers aren’t going to waste more expensive production materials on something not meant to have a long lifespan. So it already makes sense to consider better options for a healthier experience. There are several companies making metal-free vape carts, although it doesn’t appear that any have set up a model for re-using them, meaning they’re currently paying out more to produce a better product, which will cost more money.

Obviously, this doesn’t actually solve the waste issue, but it does start in the right direction. A more expensive, better product, is more likely to be attached to some kind of program to re-use it. How could this be done? Well, for one thing, retailers could give cashback, or a discount, to those who return a disposable vape cart or battery. I know a lot of people who bring their beer bottles back to the store to get a discount, and it probably wouldn’t be different with vape carts. This would allow them to stay disposable as well.

On the other hand, another option is refillable cartridges. So long as cartridges aren’t being thrown out, batteries aren’t either, and this would reduce waste the most. If consumers could bring their carts back to their local dispensary for reloading, it would promote the continued usage of products, plus, bring down the price for buyers, as they would only need to pay for the oil, and not the device. This can work with mail-order products as well, if the oil is shipped in a syringe, with an easy enough way to reload the cart.

Right now, most disposable carts are not easy to load with new oil, believe me, I’ve tried. I’m probably not the only person who doesn’t like plastic hits at the end, but also doesn’t want to waste that last drop. In the beginning of my vape use, I tried a couple times to take the last drops from different carts and add them together, but it was incredibly hard to both scrape out what was there, and deposit it elsewhere. If carts are specifically made for reloading, this problem can be worked out. For right now, manufacturers would probably rather have you keep buying new ones, as it’s the current sales model.

vape cart alternatives

How much of a waste issue is there?

When getting into the disposable vape issue, and why we need some good alternatives, here’s some basic information to consider. For one thing, carts and batteries produce three kinds of waste, including plastic waste, which we already know is one of the most detrimental parts of our environmental issues, making entire swaths of ocean water deadly for anything living. They also produce hazardous waste and electronic waste, because each and every battery, is a battery.

This vape waste issue comes from both weed smokers and e-cigarette smokers, as both come in disposable versions. A standard Juul, for example, offers about 200 puffs. Consider how many puffs an average smoker takes in a day, and how frequently this would have to be updated. For heavy smokers, its not uncommon to go through disposable vapes very quickly.

In terms of how high usage is, consider that in 2016, 2.2 million vape devices were sold, and that in just one year that went up to 16.2 million. Much of this growth was specifically related to disposable products. According to a CDC release in March 2021, between September 6, 2020 and March 21, 2021, there was a 96.4% increase in disposable vape sales, which accounts for a rise from 4 million to 7.8 million batteries. Prefilled carts went up 9.1% from 12.7 million to 13.8 million. That’s a lot of stuff to throw away!

What about recycling?

As of right now, carts actually can’t be recycled with other products. They contain chemical residues that make them considered ‘hazardous waste’. They’re also not standard in that they mix plastic and metal. Add onto that, that recycling programs for them literally don’t exist, and it means every cart gets thrown away, and tons of batteries too. One thing to consider for disposable vape alternatives, is recycling.

The batteries can be recycled more easily as most cities have programs for this. To be perfectly honest, in all my years alive, I’ve never found this easy to do. For as much damage as we’re told throwing batteries away causes, very few places are responsible about getting citizens to dispose of them properly.

The idea that most people will never dispose of a battery correctly, coupled with the growing use of these batteries for disposable vape products, leads to a worrying level of hazardous waste material. Technically, we’ve encountered this before. Prior to rechargeable batteries making it big in the 90’s, we were all about standard disposable batteries, and they were thrown in the regular garbage all the time. Perhaps enough time has gone by that this issue was forgotten. Or maybe it lends more to the idea that people want a cheaper option in the immediate.


One of the biggest issues with getting people to care about this problem, is that the disposable option is generally the much cheaper option, at least when buying individual products. Until programs are started to more easily recycle these materials, or provide easy refill options which can bring down prices more, complaining about the issue is essentially useless.

On a positive note, recent statistics do point to a much bigger rechargeable market, even if its growing slower. According to Grand View Research, in 2021, over 40% of the vape market was for rechargeable products. Coming across this data is not easy though, and how accurate this is, is hard to say. As with most product categories where there are higher and lower price points, for either better or cheaper products, the cheaper disposable vapes only seem cheaper, while over time, rechargeable is shown to be the more cost-effective option.


Disposable vapes propose an environmental issue, as well as promoting unhealthy vaping options by using cheaper materials. As the industry trucks along, more disposable vape alternatives should be expected, like cartridge return, recycling programs, refill programs, and the use of better quality cartridges. For now, when buying a product, think about where it’ll end up when you’re done with it, and if you might be better off spending a few extra dollars, for a better overall device.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.