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New kid on the block - Single-use vapes become fastest growing litter item

Single-use vapes are quickly becoming one of the most noticed items of litter in Scotland, which is why we welcome the announcement by First Minister Humza Yousaf to consult on a proposal ban these items, as outlined in his programme for government.

Stats from our forthcoming annual Scottish Litter Survey show that, for the third consecutive year, the majority of people in Scotland believe that litter is a problem in their area and across Scotland as a whole. 

Worryingly, the trend for using single-use vapes and throwing them down as litter appears to be growing. Our unpublished data highlights that 44% report seeing single use e-cigarettes very or somewhat often in their local area and half (50%) believe that seeing these has become more common in the past 12 months, particularly in urban areas among Scots in the most deprived neighbourhoods.

Scott Edgar, Senior Research Manager at Diffley Partnership, said: "This year, we expanded our survey to include single-use vapes for the first time, and the results are striking with 44% saying that they often spot discarded single-use e-cigarettes in their local area.

"The results also show this to be a growing problem as one in two say that these sightings have become more common over the past year. This increasing frequency is particularly noted by those in urban areas and in Scotland’s most deprived neighbourhoods."

Additionally, we know from our ground litter surveys that half of all litter items recorded are related to smoking (including single-use vapes). This year for the first time we audited single-use vapes separately in our ground litter surveys; because of the far more complex make up of them, the challenges of disposing of them safely, the harm they can do to our environment and the regulations around the recycling of them.

We can reveal that they were found on 6% of sites audited across Scotland. 

Our public perception survey, which will be published in late autumn, provides a comprehensive assessment of public perceptions and attitudes towards litter and littering behaviour. We have produced it with the Diffley Partnership for the past three years highlighting the significant and consistent public concern that people in Scotland have about litter in their communities and neighbourhoods, and across the nation.

Paul Wallace, our Campaigns and Social Innovation Manager, said: "Scotland’s Litter and Flytipping Strategy has been published along with an Action Plan for 2023/24.  We are playing a key part in delivering sections of this so it is vital that we understand the public’s perception of the litter problem as well as the appetite across the spectrum of Scottish society to support action.  

"Along with partners, we will use the data and stats from this forthcoming report to help drive policy change and inspire changes in behaviours, particularly those around the consumption of single-use vapes, and the disposal of them.

"We need to stop single-use vapes at source, but in the mean time we will work hard with others to ensure everyone knows how to dispose of them safely."

We look forward to attending a cross party round table tomorrow to hear more and together with partners including ASH Scotland, Marine Conservation Scotland and Laura Young, environmental activist, we will continue to call for action, up to and including a ban on these single-use products.

Notes on the Survey

  • Results are based on a survey designed by Diffley Partnership
  • The survey ran between 3-7 August and received 2,272 responses
  • Results are weighted by gender and age to be representative of the Scottish population

05 September 2023

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