Defra introduces new de facto EEE category and PBS for vapes

Posted on 29th September, 2023
new EEE category and PBS for vapes
Defra has implemented a de facto EEE Category 15 for vapes via a Producer Compliance Scheme Balancing System, to ensure collection and recycling costs are covered by vape manufacturers and importers.


Disposable vapes have quickly become one of the most talked-about topics in the UK, with the waste, environmental, and public sectors raising countless concerns about the product’s rapid rise in uptake and its impact on public health and the environment.

As a result, councils nationwide have been publicly applying pressure on Defra and the EA to either fast-track the implementation of stricter policies to manage responsible vape disposal and recycling or impose a ban on disposable vapes altogether.

This call for specific WEEE regulations on vapes has now led to a de facto 15th EEE category for vapes through the PBS backstop provision (Producer Compliance Scheme Balancing System), to ensure that the cost of collection and treatment is borne by the manufacturers and those that import vapes into the UK.

Significant cost implications

As we warned the industry earlier in the year, their failure to implement a holistic national recycling solution for vapes, adopted by their customers, could now see their costs of compliance increase by 500% over the next 3 months with little to no control.

The Environment Agency began the first step of implementing the changes by writing to producer compliance schemes on the 27th of September. They are now required to disclose the weight of vapes placed on the market by their members so that the cost of collection and treatment at local authority household waste recycling centres can be charged back.

We are expecting a significant initial cost for vape producers. Due to the cost of vape treatment, there is likely to be a large backlog at local authority sites that have been waiting for this change to recycle their vapes at no cost.

With estimates placing grey market and illegal vapes at 45% of those sold and discarded, this will likely result in a disproportionately high cost for responsible vape producers who, having fulfilled their legal obligations by joining a WEEE compliance scheme, now find themselves having to fund the recycling of all vapes, including the contraband. Further to this, the rules do not distinguish between reusable and disposable vapes, so despite producers of reusable vapes being overwhelmingly the most compliant under the WEEE regulations and producing the least waste, they are being dealt a double blow for the cost of recycling.

Managing the impact

With the rumoured ban on disposable vapes unlikely to be implemented before 2025 (if at all), if the vape industry is to bring down the cost of WEEE producer compliance, they must act in unison to take control of the recycling situation. Although we have helped organisations from NHS Trusts and Universities, through to retailers like VPZ and Tesco to implement a vape recycling solution for their customers (we are in fact, close to hitting 5,000 drop-off points across the UK), there is still much to do. A national, coordinated education and collection campaign, driven by the industry would allow them not only greater control over their costs but to encourage responsible recycling, reducing the 700 fires caused by vapes in recycling facilities every year and safeguarding the lithium contained in their devices.


If you’re a vape producer wishing to discuss your obligation with our compliance team, please contact us at compliance@wastecare.co.uk

For more information on our vape and battery collection services, please contact the team at recycling@wastecare.co.uk, or call 0800 091 0000.