No vaping without a battery:
That's why e-cigarettes are electrical devices

With increasing technologisation, it is becoming more and more difficult to clearly recognise objects in our everyday lives as electrical appliances. This also applies to the latest generation of e-cigarettes, the puff bars. They look like colourful highlighters and fit in any trouser pocket. In order for us to recognise them, we need to know how e-cigarettes work.

Study on the attitude of the Swiss population towards the return and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment. University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (2021). 1028 participants aged 18 and over from German-speaking Switzerland (74%) and French-speaking Switzerland (26%) were surveyed.

A study by the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland has shown that 20% of the population does not know that e-cigarettes are electrical appliances and must be disposed of separately (see graph). This is also reflected in the return rate at the collection points of SENS eRecycling, as Managing Director Pasqual Zopp confirms: «In our regularly conducted random samples from the flow of goods of electrical appliances, we have found very few e-cigarettes so far". The majority end up in the rubbish.

E-cigarettes contain valuable materials, but also harmful substances

The dangerous thing is that harmful substances such as lead or nicotine can escape and cause considerable damage to the environment. Every e-cigarette also ends up with a battery in the waste, which contains valuable raw materials such as lithium or nickel and is highly flammable. If the battery is recycled, however, the harmful substances are safely removed and the raw materials flow back into the material cycle. There they can be reused for new devices. So far so good: but which e-cigarettes actually contain a battery and how can I recognise it?

5 features: How to recognise an electronic device

Electronic devices such as smart watches, toys or e-cigarettes are becoming smaller and smaller and their electrical components more and more invisible. Accordingly, it is difficult to recognise them as such devices. However, this is important because they can contain both valuable raw materials and harmful substances that must be disposed of properly. Therefore, electrical appliances do not belong in the waste. SENS eRecycling has created a checklist with 5 characteristics on how to recognise electronic devices:

  • Does my item have a cable or plug that allows it to be connected directly to the mains?
  • Does my item contain a rechargeable battery or batteries?
  • Is my item used to generate light?
  • Is my item used to cool or heat liquid?
  • Can my item generate or store electricity?

Disposable or reusable e-cigarette: they only run on batteries

At first glance, the latest generation of disposable e-cigarettes, the puff bars, do not look like an electronic device. Instead, they look like colourful highlighters, ballpoint pens or UBS sticks. There is no visible battery, rechargeable battery or other electronic component as in the case of reusable e-cigarettes. Therefore, it helps to know how an e-cigarette is constructed and functions.

An electronic cigarette (vape) consists of at least four components: a battery, a tank for the liquid (liquid), a vaporiser with a heating coil and a mouthpiece. With the help of electric current from the battery and the heating coil, the liquid in the tank is heated and vapourised - this vapour is then inhaled by the consumer. Without a rechargeable battery or battery, nothing works in an e-cigarette.

The following features of the above checklist are therefore fulfilled in an e-cigarette: 1. it contains a battery that can store electricity and 2. a liquid is heated in it (the liquid).

With reusable e-cigarettes, the case is clearer: they usually come with an additional (i.e. visible) battery, a battery carrier (MOD) and a charging cable.

Conclusion: All e-cigarettes are electrical devices

All e-cigarettes - whether for single or multiple use - only work with a battery or rechargeable battery. Therefore, e-cigarettes belong to the category of electrical appliances and must be disposed of separately. Either directly at a shop that sells e-cigarettes or at a collection point for electronic waste.