The disposable vape that has taken the UK by storm. It has become almost like a fashion accessory, clutched by every age's hand in Great Britain's streets. The amount of flavours available is inconceivable and their convenience is beyond. They are a must-have for a night out and are a great way to spread tonsillitis and covid in clubs! Even people that have never smoked/vaped in their life are turning to these products as they are promised the taste of kiwi, guava and passionfruit air. The health implications are unknown but their nicotine content is the highest legal amount in the UK at 20mg per E-Cigarette. They feel dangerous to me and they feel so unsustainable. They are first of all single-use and disposable and completely made of plastic including vast amounts of plastic in the packaging so they cannot be good for the environment. I was so excited to expose these vapes and to prove to myself that I should never buy one ever again because they really hurt my bank account! They don’t need charging, they have 600 puffs and 2% nicotine salts with a built-in battery so it needs no charging and only last a limited time - depends on how much you smoke at once. There is the appeal to the consumer and particularly lazy students so you don’t have to buy chargers, refills etc. so they go down a treat but should they be. When you are enjoying the bar and the blue light starts to flash and the end of the world comes eminently closer you wish it wasn’t disposable but what about what it does for the environment. Let us have a deeper look!
That is a loaded question. What is it made of? I’m scrolling on a website where you can buy them preparing for a girls' holiday to Malaga and the amount of obscure flavours is insane! Like, honestly, what is ‘mad blue’, how do they make ‘elf berg’? They don’t even sound real! They must add a ten tonne of chemicals and how are they made? My personal favourite is kiwi, guava and passionfruit so that is the one I am investigating. I’m sitting here opening a fresh bar (consumer research obvs). So the cardboard box is a recyclable good guess but the warning signs on the box are NOT GOOD. There is a toxic warning on the box and the writing says ‘harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects’ WHAT?! I have never read the box and you don't really often read the box but I did not expect that. I hate that! That in itself makes me want to never buy one again. Also says fatal to the skin do you can’t swallow the liquid or let it touch your skin. That feels wrong? I know sometimes the juice comes out of the bar so how can that work? It also cannot be but in municipal waste, as it counts as electronic waste and the disposal of electronic waste is not a simple or environmentally friendly process. So you take it out of the box and it's sealed in a plastic bag with what I deem unnecessary silicone things on the top and the bottom of the bar. I get that it is to keep it fresh and seal in the air but it is such small plastic and silicone bits that it seems like it is such harm to the environment and a hazard to aquatic life or small children if they found the small silicone stoppers. Additionally, silicone which goes into much of the making and packaging of the product is a derivative of petroleum (not good). It is also a difficult substance to recycle and most plants don’t accept it. It is an alternative to plastic but just not a good one. There just doesn’t seem to be much effort in creating sustainable packaging. They are made in China, which obviously means outsourcing by the company and that comes with high emissions in the distribution of the product. So that's not great. Going deeper into the product the coil is made of supposedly organic cotton so that is something I guess but not enough to make up for the harmful effects. I looked on the website and no indications or talk of making sustainable decisions apart from briefly mentioned in their brand story about constant innovation to create a healthier product and to use the friendliest materials and cause the least amount of damage so they do have the consumers in mind when creating the product and there are plenty of warnings about the addictive nature of the product both on the website and the product itself. I also saw on the website that an elf bar with 800 puffs is the same as 60 cigarettes! I was so shocked! I knew it was the same as a lot of cigarettes but not 60! But it was good to find this out and I liked the company's transparency in the effects and warnings of the products, even if they are in small print and in the depths of the website it’s something.
So what about the chemicals and ingredients themselves.
Vegetable Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Nicotine, Natural & Artificial Flavours.
Nicotine obviously has health effects but it is a naturally derived substance from plants but most likely synthetically made in industrial vape production. Propylene Glycol is synthetic and not naturally occurring and is made of two chemical components and is toxic to humans in large quantities. It is regarded as a safe substance by food boards but it has negative aspects the more exposure to humans. These ingredients are not great for the environment. They are all bad for the consumer and in some cases even bad and toxic for aquatic life and the environment around us.
All in all not great in what it is made of section and I’m not impressed. I guess it comes with the territory of E-Cigarettes especially being disposable but I am just shocked by the reality. I think I will at least be sticking to reusable vapes.
This process intrigued me because I cannot comprehend how you trape this flavoured air and nicotine in a tiny bar! So the battery is acid-based - this creates such an environmental issue when they are thrown away or littered. They need proper safe dismantling and are considered a harmful electronic waste product as the nicotine and other substances leak from the bar. There is no current way to recycle them safely and e-cigarettes but particularly disposable ones form a very negative environmental impact in how they are made and how they are disposed of. I found a very interesting article that said “More than half (51%) of young e-cigarette users reported disposing of used e-cigarette pods or empty disposables in the trash, 17% in a regular recycling bin not designed for e-cigarette waste, and 10% reported they simply throw them on the ground, according to Truth Initiative research conducted in 2020. Almost half (49.1%) of young people don’t know what to do with used e-cigarette pods and disposable devices.” (Truthinitiative). Most companies of e-cigarettes and I found this with elf bars provide absolutely no information on how to dispose of this product after it has been used and no information on how it is made, making it harder to know how to dispose of it. Finding information on how these bars are created is like trying to get blood from a stone! All I know is that they are produced in China and I managed to find a video by vice on China’s growing vape industry. Absolutely no transparency from elf bar on this account. They talk about vape expos in China and the creation of big business in China and the creation of Chinese brands of vape as they create and sell the hardware. China produces most of the world’s vapes with 90% being produced in Shenzhen, China. The factories seem simple with little protection against the production but I only say solder irons and hot glue guns so nothing too dangerous but still. The owner of the factory said it was a simple and easy production but alas said nothing about how it’s actually done. Crazy. I assume the factories use up lots of fossil fuels and obviously so does the transportation of the products from China but I have no solid information. I think my main issue with these vapes is the materials used and the disposal of the product.
So I am also a keen user of reusable vapes and I use the company Vuse so knew a little about them and what they do but I was intrigued by how the manufacturers of elf bars do it. They are as I said trying to create a healthier product all the time and their goal is to help people stop smoking but I think unfortunately it has just encouraged non-smokers to start consuming nicotine unnecessarily. They are not very transparent on anything about this product only about the adverse effects so I guess that is good to an extent. However, they have no indication of creating environmental guidelines to improve the product and its effects on a livable future. There is no mention of how to dispose of the product or create a way of safely disposing of them. Elf bars are creating a reusable vape but that's not their main seller and their longevity is only a couple of months. I think either the company or governments need to create a safe way of disposing of vapes because they are only increasing in popularity and so the adverse effects of throwing away the product are only going to get worse and change needs to be made. I think from now on I will try and avoid vaping altogether or at least use a reusable one.