Don’t Buy Disposable Vapes! Inside One Man’s Uphill Battle Against Lithium Depletion

Disposable vaporizers are responsible for sending lithium to landfills. This precious Earth metal may reach critical levels when we truly need it the most 🔋.

By J Gordon Curtis Last Updated: April 11, 2023
Last Updated: April 11, 2023
Art by: dikigiyat

Over the last couple of years, the popularity of disposable vapes has taken over the nicotine and cannabinoid market.

Many choose to forgo the more expensive rechargeable battery in favor of a brand-new disposable piece every time. As a result, consumers send mass quantities of precious metals to landfills yearly.

The moral of the story is to buy rechargeable 510 vape batteries. One of the few people out there telling that story is Jasper and his Twitter community, found at the handle @LeafDebrief.

Let’s dig into this story in greater detail. 

What is Leaf Debrief? The Vendetta Against Disposable Vape Pens

Precious few cannabis communities have the sense of sincerity that emanates from the LeafDebreif Twitter handle. Initially started as an idea for a podcast and product review page, it’s grown to include regular meetings and a series of inside-ish jokes. 

My personal favorite is the meme that the page posts whenever a brand posts an obviously photoshopped picture of their flower:

Alongside the fun and whimsy has always been an underlying layer of seriousness as well. “At a high-level overview,” Jasper (the owner and operator of the handle) said, “I picked human rights and the environment as the two hills I would die on.

This takes several forms, but the most prominent of them comes from Jasper’s fight against disposables.

The Problem with Disposable Vapes

It’s possible to distill the problem down to a single resource: lithium. 

While creating a bunch of plastic and metal rectangles destined for a landfill is already not great, the real problem is the battery inside of them.

As Jasper put it, “lithium is currently the running candidate for high-volume power storage. Running out of it is extremely bad for electric vehicles, solar panels, and more. The price is already skyrocketing and it’s only going to climb further.”

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates the world will face lithium shortages as soon as 2025. That should be right when Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill places electric vehicle chargers along the highway.

“The idea that an entire industry is devoted to throwing lithium in the trash is a slap in the face.” Differences between a rechargeable lithium battery and a disposable one boil down to a single attached part. Jasper told me, “I get them in a bag of 10-20 for $1.” 

The $0.10 difference is what enables the battery to recharge, change wattage, and continue to operate beyond a single charge. 

Leaf Debrief’s Response to Disposable Batteries

Jasper gets his message out there through a variety of side hobbies. While talking, he showed me a triple-cartridge vape he was hobbling together from other disposable batteries.

“Mostly what I’m using the batteries for are useful things. I’m putting them in paintings or using them to backlight rosin. The rest has been fucking around in my whims but there’s a larger goal as well.”

As Jasper puts it, that goal is “getting people so jazzed on the 510 electrical standards that disposables don’t even seem fun anymore.” Videos litter Jasper’s Twitter feed of him finding and breaking apart discarded disposables and repurposing them for something cooler while pointing out the tragedy of their existence. 

Nearly every day, at least one anti-disposable tweet bursts forth from the LeafDebrief account. “I don’t make a lot of friends in the industry like this.”

Jasper frequently uses his account to pester and create conflict with brands claiming environmental sustainability while carrying disposables. “I’ve also had ongoing conflicts with numerous LPs directly, two of which are active at the moment.”

When asked if this has ever affected the original intent of his platform and if brands have asked him to calm it down, he responded, “oh fuck yeah, I love the detractors. They’re a blast.” This “brands-be-damned” attitude is not common in cannabis twitter spaces, where people usually try not to offend anyone.

Let alone offend the disposables industry — a huge part of the market. While there isn’t much data on the sale of disposable cannabis vapes, the number of e-cigarette disposable vapes sold is astounding and still on the rise. The CDC found that sales in 2021 increased by over 181% from 2.8m to 7.8m.

Not only did the number of sales climb, but the market share (or the number of people choosing disposables over reusable batteries) also grew. Within the cannabis industry, this shows itself in the form of disposable vapes that producers offer for the same or similar prices to that of cartridges.

The idea of having a fresh, clean battery with every cartridge is enough for people to ditch the battery altogether.

Key Takeaways: Avoid Lithium Disposables Like the Plague

While this problem persists and pesters in the community, many are unaware of or ignore it. It often feels like the cannabis community combats the misinformation of the past with unquestioning loyalty and refusal to question anything about it.

This is a very real concern in the industry, but many look the other way in the name of not rocking the boat. As legalization inches forward, there’s a fear that any negativity can derail the whole train.

That’s fighting misinformation and ignorance with more misinformation and ignorance. Disposable batteries and the waste of lithium have the potential to have devastating effects on our climate and our world.

We have to acknowledge the cannabis community’s role in this and make the necessary changes. On a consumer level, that means forking over $15 for a battery (or letting Jasper send you one for free) instead of getting a disposable every time. 

On the corporate level, this has to mean a dedication to removing disposables and informing customers why that matters. Especially for cannabis companies that wish to tout sustainability.

Cannabis has always been a plant that reminds us of how beautiful our world can be. Concern for the environment should be a prerequisite for working in this industry. More importantly, the market is still in its infancy, and as it continues to grow, so too will the problems. 

We must nip this problem in the bud now, so we aren’t reaping the consequences of it later.