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Trashing Your Empty Vape Oil Cartridges? Here’s What You Can Do Instead

May 24, 2019

As you toss your used-up cannabis oil vape cartridge in the trash, you might wonder, can I recycle that instead?

The short answer is no—and with the popularity of vape pens steadily rising, that’s a problem. Reports show that concentrate sales are expected to overtake flower sales by 2022, with a large majority of these oils being consumed through pre-loaded vape cartridges.


Everything you need to know about pre-filled oil vape cartridges

However convenient these vape pens are, they’re quickly becoming the cannabis industry equivalent of Keurig cups, as retired batteries and cartridges make their way to the landfill.

So what’s holding us back from more sustainable solutions? How can businesses, and you as a consumer, make a difference?

Can You Recycle Cannabis Vaporizer Cartridges?

You might wonder, why can’t cannabis oil cartridges be recycled after use? Vape pens and their cartridges are made up of many different materials in minuscule quantities. Because of the complexity of these products, traditional recycling facilities have no method to extract the desired resources.

The fear was that items like cartridges would be collected and trace amounts of cannabis oils could be extracted to produce an unregulated black market product.

Dealing with spent cartridges is a specialized field. Anytime you want to recycle something as unique and complex as a vape cartridge, you need a large quantity that can sustain the business offering the service.

With no shortage of cartridges, this brings us to the second problem: Why can’t we collect vape cartridges?

When states began to transition to legal markets, regulations were put in place to deter illegal resale activity. The fear was that items like cartridges would be collected and trace amounts of cannabis oils could be extracted to produce an unregulated black market product. Because of this, it is illegal for businesses to allow for drop-off bins for cartridges.


The Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Oil Vaporizer Cartridges

What You Can Do to Support Sustainable Solutions

Without these drop-off collections and specialized recycling centers, it’s unlikely we will see any development towards recycling cartridges in the near future. That may sound bleak, but there are still ways you can support more sustainable options when it comes to vaping.

Reach Out to Your State Representatives

This is priority number one when it comes to lessening the impact that cannabis oil cartridges have on the environment. If you can get your state to change the laws that control how cannabis products are handled after use, we can begin to have a conversation on how to recycle these products.

Find out who your state representatives are here.


5 Ways to Love Earth as Much as You Love Cannabis

Invest in Refillable Vape Cartridges

Perhaps the most direct action you can take right now is investing in a quality vape pen that allows you to refill the chamber time and time again. While these vape pens require a little more effort, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve prevented yet another cartridge from going to the landfill.

Get started by browsing tons of refillable vape pen options on Leafly.

Support Sustainable Brands & Products

If you’re going to be buying cannabis oils in cartridges or bulk, look for companies who are committed to sustainability. While they might be pigeonholed currently by state law, there are plenty of businesses out there that dislike selling single-serving products just as much as you dislike using them.

Here are seven examples of companies doing it right, but you can also ask your local budtender about brands in your area prioritizing sustainable practices.

Look for Eco-Friendly Materials

Not all cartridges are created equal—simply take a look at what materials different brands use. Many chambers are made of glass instead of plastic, and tips can be made from ceramic or bamboo.

Additionally, the use of hemp plastics in product materials is slowly but surely becoming more common.

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

View Trevor Hennings's articles

  • jontomas

    Another good thing to do is simply vaporize whole flowers. There are several good vaporizers on the market for the whole plant. – This is also a good way to avoid ingesting extra chemicals.

  • jontomas

    It seems everybody has an agenda. – Even the otherwise excellent reporters at Leafly. – So you can’t point out here that vaporizing whole flowers is a good way to avoid generating waste?

  • jontomas

    I guess not. 8^)