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Discarded vapes pose new litter hazard for animals, warns RSPCA

The RSPCA has received more than 10,000 calls over the past three years about animals affected by litter, as the charity warns vapes pose a new litter threat to animals.

New statistics from the charity show that 10,483 calls were received about animals impacted by litter over 2020, 2021 and 2022.

With an average of almost ten reports per day taken by the charity about animals found severely injured, trapped, mutilated, choked or even dead from carelessly discarded litter of all kinds, the RSPCA is urging people to do their bit to protect animals this year and get involved in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean’s ‘Big Bag Challenge’, starting on Friday 17 March.

The call for people to collect litter during the Great British Spring Clean comes amidst reports from the UK and overseas of vapes being mistaken by animals for food and being ingested and even dying from them.  In the UK, 167.5 million single-use vapes are used every year.

Vapes contain a variety of materials and poisonous substances including plastic, lithium and nicotine, all of which can be hazardous to animals when discarded as litter or not disposed of properly.

RSPCA scientific officer Evie Button said: “When I litter-picked last year on the banks of the Thames, I was horrified at the amount of old vapes I was finding on the shoreline. Carelessly discarded used vapes seems to be a growing trend, and that’s a real concern for us.

“Litter is one of the biggest hazards our wildlife faces today, and new hazards such as these discarded vapes just add to the risk to animals. Litter is a problem on all of our doorsteps – from city centres to the countryside and beaches –  so all of us can do something to help by getting involved in the Great British Spring Clean and disposing of dangerous items such as vapes appropriately.

“Our staff deal with thousands of incidents every year where animals have been impacted by litter – and what they are seeing is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, for every animal we’re able to help there are probably many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives.

“Spring is an ideal time to go on a litter-pick because it’s before the breeding season when young animals such as fox cubs start getting into trouble, and litter will be more visible in hedges before the vegetation really starts growing. That’s why we’re calling on the public to get involved in the Great British Spring Clean to help remove litter that may endanger animals.”

The UK Government warns that incorrect disposal of vapes can potentially release plastic, electronic and hazardous chemical waste into the environment. It says that used vapes are classified as electrical waste, and should be disposed of appropriately at a household recycling centre or at the shop where the device was bought.

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Posted inNews

Discarded vapes pose new litter hazard for animals, warns RSPCA

a squirrel burying a vape
A squirrel buries a vape (Photo: RSPCA)