If your business manufactures, distributes, or sells vape products and batteries, you need a recycling plan. It’s an easy and effective way to protect your brand image and keep your customers coming back for more.

For the purposes of this article:

  • Vape (or vape pen) refers to a one-time-use, cannabis-oil-filled device with an attached Li-ion battery; it’s a battery and cartridge in one.
  • Battery refers to a multi-use, rechargeable Li-ion battery for use with vape pods or cartridges.
  • Cartridge (or cart) refers to a one-time-use, cannabis-oil-containing device with a built-in heating element; it usually measures 1 to 1.5 inches and connects to a multi-use battery (usually sold separately).

Cannabis Brands Need a Vape Recycling Plan

Branded vapes and batteries are being improperly discarded in record numbers, and this can present numerous problems for the manufacturer and the general public.

  • It contributes to the non-renewable waste problem
  • It can trigger negligence fines from local governments
  • It projects a negative brand image that can hurt the manufacturer’s bottom line

Consider this: Data from BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research suggests that the vape market is worth $2.5 billion per year. Assuming an average price of $40 per unit, that’s 62.5 million vapes, carts, and batteries going into dumpsters and landfills every year—or 5.2 million per month.

As cannabis industry professionals, we have a responsibility to provide a sustainable method of disposal for this new and growing waste stream. But as with all aspects of cannabis waste management, we have to do it in accordance with all of the complex laws and regulations.

Challenges With Developing a Vape Recycling Plan

Traditional recycling isn’t an option with cannabis vapes. Even though these devices are made largely with recyclable materials, they contain elements of both hazardous waste and cannabis waste.

The electronic batteries must be discarded at an authorized hazardous waste disposal site, and the vapes themselves must be tracked, traced, and rendered according to the law. That’s because anything with even trace amounts of cannabis oil residue is legally considered cannabis waste.

We’ve spoken to a number of manufacturers and business owners, and they all express the same common frustrations: Even if they try to collect used vapes and batteries for recycling, they can’t overcome the logistical challenges. For instance:

  • Hazardous waste and cannabis waste have different recycling requirements—but a vape falls into both categories.
  • There’s simply no outlet for recycling thousands of discarded batteries, even if the batteries haven’t touched cannabis. Most of these batteries are cased in non-recyclable plastic, and there’s little incentive to strip them of their recyclable parts.
  • There’s no place to send bulk product that has expired or failed testing.

Manufacturers and retailers shouldn’t have to navigate the ever-growing complexities of vape recycling. That’s why we set out to establish a simple recycling program that any business can get on board with.

How to Implement a Vape Recycling Plan

The first step toward implementing a vape pen recycling plan is to partner with a cannabis waste management provider that specializes in vape recycling. GAIACA is an industry leader in this respect.

  • We provide retailers with branded collection boxes where customers can discard their old vapes, carts, and batteries.
  • We provide retailers with 7-gallon locking chests for their collected materials, as required by the Bureau of Cannabis Control. The chests are only accessible by employees and the waste management provider.
  • We arrange for monthly or bimonthly pickups. We render the waste on-site per state regulations and then transport everything to our facility where it’s processed, packaged, and recycled.
  • We deactivate all batteries using a liquid nitrogen dip. Batteries are broken down and powderized via hammer mill, and the resulting materials are either reused (as plastics or metals, depending on the composition) or sold as abrasives for high-precision manufacturing.
  • If you manufacture or distribute vape products, we can come to your facility to collect and destroy all bulk product on-site. All expired and failed vape products are removed and recycled.
  • We’re also establishing a mail-back program that will allow consumers to mail their used batteries to an appropriate facility for recycling. Provided envelopes will be labeled for universal waste shipping.

Once you have your recycling partner, all that’s left is to incentivize your customers to drop off their used vape products. You can do this by offering discounts (such as 10% off) on replacement products or issuing points that can be used toward other purchases. This is an excellent way to encourage customer loyalty while reducing your carbon footprint and remaining compliant with local and state regulations.

The vape market is projected to grow by nearly 25% per year through 2027, so the time to implement a recycling plan is now. Don’t get left behind.