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Initiative to cleanup vaping issue

A Wairarapa-based Māori health service has created an initiative to kick the mounting rise in vape litter to the curb.

Two vape recycling advocates from Whaiora have spent two months developing and delivering the campaign Ehara Tenei Te Pūrākau o Ngā Tīpuna [This is not the story of our Tīpuna] and aspire to rolling it out nationwide.

This has involved teaming up with more than 30 Masterton businesses that have now collected more than 370 vapes in four weeks.

Whaiora kaimahi [worker] Chloe Wihongi said that because vapes are becoming increasingly popular, so is the waste.

“In the first week, we collected 142 vapes with low promotion and word of mouth, and there were more that want bins,” she said.

Wihongi said that Masterton dairies with tiny vape stores have been given free 20-litre buckets from the initiative and are letting customers know about the drop-off bucket system.

She added that Urban Eats has had 75 vapes dropped off in one day after people were alerted through social media that the service was available.

This campaign promoting safe disposal of vapes is needed due to both its negative effects on society and the environment, Wihongi said.

The three key areas of environmental concern, she said, include lithium batteries being fire hazards, leaching of toxic chemicals left in vape residue and heavy metals into the environment, and plastic pollution that never fully decomposes.

She added that the lifespan of a vape is approximately 300-600 puffs, equivalent
to a packet of cigarettes.

Aotearoa has yet to release any official data on the levels of vape waste, but Wihongi noted that her whanau filled a bag with almost a dozen discarded vapes when walking down the streets of Masterton.

Wihongi said it is concerning from a health perspective because even though vapes are banned at schools in Wairarapa, many students still do it “undercover”.

“My kids, only 12 and nine, come home and they tell me that other students at school are doing it in the toilets when teachers aren’t around,” she said.

“They are a lot cheaper than cigarettes and accessible to our youth as they just go to older siblings.”

Whaiora kaimahi Shannon Martin said the campaign is not “anti-vape” but “pro” being a good steward of the environment and supporting the image of being a tidy Kiwi.

“Ideally, we would love someone in the community to continue this work after our three-month contract ends in about three weeks,” he said.

Masterton District Council mayor Gary Caffell said the issues raised by the pair are “very real” and that their campaign deserves support as it is environmentally friendly.

“I have invited Shannon and Chloe to speak to councillors, and hopefully that will happen within the next fortnight,” he said.

“I am sure we will support becoming strong advocates for the campaign, with the idea of it spreading well beyond Masterton and the Wairarapa.”

The Public Health Communication Centre Aotearoa 2022-23 data on vaping prevalence from the New Zealand Health Survey showed that there were 408,000 adults over 15 years old who vaped daily.

The survey noted that 110,000 of those between the ages 18 to 24 years and 32,000 people aged 15 to 17 years vaped daily.

Places to safely dispose of vapes for recycling in Masterton currently include: Whaiora, CBK Masterton, Puawānanga Wairarapa Young Parents, Rangitāne o Wairarapa, He Kahui Wairarapa, 10 O’Clock Bakery, Urban Eats, Jackson Street Bar, Strada, Iberia, Kathmandu, Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa, Yellow Brick Road, Copper Kettle Superette, Masterton Bakery & Coffee Shop, Eastside Vape Store, Hospital Food Market, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Tamaki nui-a-rua Settlement Trust, Tiny Vape Shop, Solway Supermarket & Solway Superstore & Takeaways, Vape Shop, Lincoln Road Dairy, The New Super Store, St James Dairy, Lake Dairy & Takeaway, Colombo General Store.

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