Wednesday 29 November 2023  


The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) welcomes further action by the Federal Government on addressing vapes, in particular disposable single use vapes.

“We applaud the action of governments across Australia to take action to protect the community from the harm of nicotine dependence. However, we wonder when there will be real action to protect our workers from them?” WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said.

Vapes are a significant cause of fires in our trucks and facilities, with the waste and resource recovery (WARR) industry experiencing multiple fires each week across Australia. Currently, there is no safe disposal pathway for vapes as they contain an embedded battery, which is not included in the nationwide Battery Stewardship Scheme. This means users often throw them in the rubbish bin where they are increasingly causing fires in waste trucks, processing facilities and landfills.

“Battery fires are one of the biggest issues facing our sector and many are started by vapes. It’s only a matter of time before one of our workers is seriously injured and we have already seen a significant facility damaged.

“The risk of fire doesn’t just end with the banning of disposable vapes because we know there is a significant black market. They still need to be dealt with wholistically, because the fire risk from a legal or illegal vape is exactly the same – as is the lack of an end-of-life pathway.”

The Federal Government has $737 million in funding identified in the 2023-24 budget to address this harm, and as we wrote in our letter with Clean Up Australia on 12 October 2023, this funding must also be utilised to address end-of-life of these hazardous products, be it a product stewardship scheme for therapeutic vapes with chemists or an alternative government funded take back scheme.

WMRR appreciates that the 10 November 2023 Environment Ministers Meeting noted ‘common concerns around batteries across jurisdictions, particularly around lithium-ion batteries and safety risk, and noted the Queensland government will lead work across jurisdictions that might inform future regulatory actions.’

However, the risk is now and requires both urgency and action. We also recognise black market operators cannot and will not be part of a stewardship scheme, therefore we need government funding now to address this significant safety issue.

“Australia has stated it will be a circular economy by 2030 which means that any legislation passed by this Government requires consideration of the lifecycle of products - this piece is clearly missing in the Government’s current vapes reform.

“It is not good enough that the waste and resource recovery industry is left to deal with these dangerous items, putting our workers and infrastructure in danger. We need an appropriate disposal pathway as part of this reform. We call on Minister Butler to act for the safety of our workers too,” Ms Sloan said.