Vaping and e-cigarette use are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, e-cigarette monthly unit sales increased by 46.6 percent – from 15.5 million units in January 2020 to 22.7 million units in December 2022, prefilled device sales decreased while disposable device sales increased, and sales of sweet, youth-appealing flavors increased.
Where does all that waste go?
While the Department of Environmental Conservation has been working on a solution, there is no formal mechanism to safely dispose of vape products in New York State. Therefore, the Drug Enforcement Administration recognized the need for a safe vape disposal mechanism to protect these products from diversion to underage persons and to keep high potency nicotine out of the soil and ground water.
As such, this year, the DEA began allowing vape devices, e-cigarettes and cartridges to be disposed of during its bi-annual medication take-back days. But those events are few and far between.
Although nicotine products are only legal for people age 21 and older, Putnam County school districts have been especially hard-hit with the amount of vape devices they confiscate each year. A consortium of local substance use prevention agencies throughout the Hudson Valley approximated 90 pounds of vapes being confiscated by Putnam County schools each year.
In response to these safe vape disposal concerns, the Prevention Council of Putnam has installed six safe vape disposal boxes – at the Carmel, Philipstown, Patterson and Putnam Valley town halls; the Department of Motor Vehicles in Brewster; and at the Kent Police Department.
These boxes accept vape devices, e-cigarettes and nicotine cartridges during the business hours of each respective location. The boxes also display a QR code that connects people to local resources.
The Prevention Council of Putnam hopes to collaborate with local school districts later this year and expand safe vape disposal mechanisms to high school students.
While there have been some concerns for the safe disposal of the lithium-ion batteries in some vape devices, precedent pilot vape disposal programs advise for the boxes to avoid wide temperature variation and extreme temperatures, and that they must be emptied at least every six months.
All six disposal boxes in Putnam meet these safety recommendations to reduce risk.
Support for these boxes has been overwhelming, as the community has responded with praise.
“The Brewster DMV is happy to host the safe vape disposal box to help reduce vape waste and connect people to services they need,” said Putnam County Clerk Michael Bartolotti.
Molly Franco from POW’R Against Tobacco, a local resource for tobacco use prevention and support, said the organization applauds the efforts being taken by the Prevention Council and participating Putnam County municipalities to address this major environmental and public health concern.
“Increasing accessibility to safe disposal methods is an excellent step toward reducing tobacco waste and it is a practice that counties across New York State could benefit from,” she said. “We encourage legislators to explore policy options that would streamline this process and hold tobacco companies accountable.”
For information on safe vape disposal, substance use prevention, recovery or harm reduction resources, call the Prevention Council of Putnam at 845-225-4646 or email email@example.com.