Vape carts are filling landfills but sustainable options are finally here

Waste is abundant in the cannabis industry. From the packaging to the environmental tax of cultivation, sustainability pain points feel neverending. One of the most prominent contributors to the issue is vape cartridges and one-time-use vaporizers.

These vape products are made of a combination of small metal and plastic parts that prove difficult to recycle. If placed in a line, the yearly waste from disposable vapes (including tobacco) could span over 7,000 miles. On top of that, many of the popular vapes are made with non-biodegradable materials. That means they’ll stay in oceans and landfills forever.

In the cannabis sphere, some vape companies are working to offset this monumental waste. Longtime vape leader PAX recently celebrated earning Plastic Negative Certification across all product lines through a partnership with rePurpose Global.

sustainable vape carts
Photo provided by rePurpose Global and PAX

Plastic Negative Certification means that double the plastic used to make a PAX Mini, Plus, Era, one-gram Pods, and edibles is removed from nature. The PAX Trip, the world’s first plastic-negative all-in-one vape, was announced alongside the recent certification.

The disposable vape is made with ocean-bound plastic. Changing to this material isn’t exceptionally cost-prohibitive, but sourcing is complicated. That means it can be more expensive to buy in. Still, it’s an option that doesn’t add more waste to the world.

“Ultimately, we’re working toward phasing out net new plastic and opting for inputs that minimize waste, require less CO2 to manufacture and biodegrade, and there are increasingly more and more opportunities to impact,” PAX VP of communications and public affairs Laura Fogelman said to GreenState.

Entry level vape sustainability

While ceasing waste creation altogether is the goal, it’s not an option for everyone. Moving from forever vape cartridges to biodegradable alternatives is a viable first step. That’s possible thanks to brands like CCELL with the introduction of the Eco Star vape cartridge.

Advanced Vapor Devices, Jupiter, and other wholesale vape tech brands offer biodegradable mouthpieces, but unlike the Eco Star, the whole unit isn’t recyclable. This wholesale fillable vape cart features a pull-apart design and customizable biodegradable features. Inside is a recyclable lithium-ion battery. Just remove this and recycle before tossing the rest.

Lithium batteries are infinitely recyclable; the process is more expensive than brine mining for more lithium.

“One of the biggest issues the vape industry faces — and one we’re actively thinking about solutions for — is addressing lithium batteries and providing alternatives that aren’t cost-prohibitive for consumers,” Fogelman said, “This is a big challenge that even the top consumer electronics brands haven’t totally cracked the code on, but an area where there’s huge potential to make a difference.”

As PAX and others look to the future of vape sustainability, some are looking back at the mess that’s already been made. California vape brand Halara has been focused on reversing its environmental impact for years and in April 2023 they started honing in on vape cart waste.

The initiative was introduced in tandem with the Halara all-in-one vape to offset waste created by the product factor. 

“For nearly a year before this launch, Halara struggled to find a viable vape recycling solution in California due to the many expenses, logistic hurdles, and regulatory requirements we have. After many conversations and brainstorming sessions, we decided that our best action plan was for Halara to bring our vape recycling program entirely in-house,” Halara CMO Lizzie Spire said to GreenState.

Each recycling container is provided to dispensaries by Halara, and they’re shaped like vape batteries. They accept vape batteries and all-in-one disposable vapes from every brand at this time. For now, they can’t accept vape cartridges, though they hope to in the future. Those at weed parties this summer should keep an eye out for the brand as they’re taking the recycling show on the road to events like Cali Roots and Grasslands at Outsidelands.

These environmental efforts bring a hopeful air to the often unsustainable weed space. Anyone with cannabis and sustainability as common interests has been curious about how to correct the environmental wrongs of the vape sector, and the brands above are providing answers. However, from cleaning up forever vape waste to crafting sustainable alternatives, there is work yet to be done on both ends.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.