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Troubling photo of city trash can sparks debate about pervasive problem: 'At least it's on a bin I suppose'

"Would you prefer it on cars or the streets or in nature?"

"Would you prefer it on cars or the streets or in nature?"

Photo Credit: iStock

Historically, cigarette butts have been a common and extremely problematic type of litter. Today, smoking is on the decline — but vaping is on the rise. Vape cartridges don't produce butts, but they do come packaged with protective stickers, and one Redditor complained about finding them in their community. 

What happened? 

The post was a little unusual for the r/CasualUK subreddit, which is geared toward light-hearted banter and jokes and has rules against negative posts. However, the discussion is an important one.

"A normal London trash can covered in vape stickers!!!" the original poster said, sharing a photo of the garbage can in question. 

A normal london trashcan caked in vape stickers
Photo Credit: Reddit

The public garbage can in the image had a broad cover to protect the trash from the weather and prevent messes. That cover was peppered with hundreds of small stickers. There were several distinct designs representing different brands, but all the stickers had clearly been peeled from the product packaging.

Why is this litter a problem? 

While these stickers themselves are small, they add up. Already, they almost cover this garbage can, and vaping hasn't been popular for very long — so as more time passes, it will likely get worse. The more people litter by sticking their trash to public property, the messier these public areas will get. Not only that, but the messier the area is, the more people will be encouraged to litter, as The Allegheny Front explained.

"At least it's on a bin I suppose," one defeated commenter said. However, many of the stickers were visibly peeling, which meant they would likely fall off and end up in the dirt or the ocean, where they could harm wildlife. 

What are vape companies doing?

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like vape companies are doing much to curb plastic pollution.  

As commenters pointed out, the trash can itself was a measure to prevent littering. "The original said something like 'trashcan in front of vape shop' which is why this one specifically is so heavily stickered," one user said.

"Would you prefer it on cars or the streets or in nature?" another Redditor asked.

"I'd prefer it in the f****** bin," a third user quipped.

What's being done about vaping litter more broadly?

Vaping in general is bad for users' health and for the planet. Disposable vape cartridges often end up as litter, with only 17% being correctly recycled. The U.K. government and others are considering a ban on single-use vape products for this reason, which would also eliminate the stickers.

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