Hit the pen, pass it around until the pod's empty, toss it on the ground, and forget about it forever. It may sound rather harsh when put like that, but how else do you explain the countless discarded Juul pods strewn all over the sidewalks, parks, and train platforms of Chicago?
To give Juul smokers some credit, it's not easy to appropriately dispose of the pods — mostly because there is no correct way. They are made of plastic and are single-use items. Considering that the overuse of plastic is significantly contributing to the pollution of our oceans and climate change, our days of simply throwing everything in the trash can need to be over. Juul's website used to advertise that the pods "can be thrown away in a regular trash can." However, the page now blatantly describes the pods as just "disposable." Well, obviously they are disposable, anything is disposable. That's nothing to brag about. What's really important is whether or not the pods are recyclable — which is a much harder feat to achieve, so it's no surprise the company has yet to share information on that.
These single-use pods hold about a pack of cigarettes' worth of nicotine, and once they are used up will frequently end up on the ground as litter. As is the case with other e-cigarettes, Juuls contain heavy metals like nickel, lead, and tin. When discarded on the street or even thrown away only to sit for centuries in our overflowing landfills, the discharge that leaks out is enough to qualify Juuls as e-waste and a biohazard threat.
Additionally, like AirPods and most other electronics, Juuls use a lithium-ion battery, which usually gives out after a couple of years. And, being so small and full of little parts, Juuls are extremely intricate and difficult to take apart. Although Juul does not want you to just throw them away, they offer no clear guidelines on how to recycle them leaving consumers with few options for disposal. Even more concerning, lithium-ion batteries, if handled incorrectly, can explode. So what happens in a few years when everyone's Juuls die? Chances are they will all be tossed into garbage cans and send to landfills to leak e-waste.
As a seventeen-year-old still in high school, I don't have an exact solution to all of this that isn't just "What if we stopped being addicted to nicotine?" However, I do have a fun proposition for those who are in a situation of not wanting to simply discard empty pods anywhere but also don't want them sitting in a desk in your room: make them into Juulry!
My left brain was spurred one day on the train when my friends and I found three matching blue Juul pods. I had already been on a kick of recycling unexpected everyday objects into earrings, and this definitely classified as an unexpected everyday object. To fashion the pods into earrings, simply heat up the end of a paper clip over an open flame, and then forge a small hole through the matte black part of the pod. The holes form easily, and then hook the jump rings and findings together, and voilà! An upcycled earring that won't leak corrosive chemicals into the earth.