Are Dockless Electric Bikes & Scooters the Next E-Waste?

3 red dockless e-bikes on beach cliff
Dockless E-Bikes on Beach Cliff -San Diego CA USA
dockless e-scooter on beach
Dockless E-Scooter on Beach- San Diego CA USA

Dockless electric scooters and bicycles are emerging as the flexible urban transportation alternative. Electric personal transporters (EPTs) offer advantages in cost, urban congestion and environmental footprint, but contain lithium batteries and other electronic components. Do abandoned EPTs pose an e-waste threat?

I saw the EPTs pictured above during a recent visit to California.

Dockless EPT allow users to pick up and drop off their rented vehicles just about anywhere, rather than be limited to docking facilities. The EPTs are collected at night, charged, and distributed to staging areas in the early morning. Are any EPTs abandoned during this process because they are in obscure or difficult to access areas?

The good news is that all the vehicles pictured above were gone the next morning, so these particular EPT locations did not appear to be a deterrent to prompt collection.

Nonetheless, there are reports of EPTs abandoned in environmentally sensitive areas. News stories from cities like Austin, Dallas, Oakland and Seattle report EPTs ending up in bodies of water. It is unclear how much of this is caused by irresponsible EPT users, how much is attributable to militant EPT opponents, and how much is just random vandalism.

It is important to keep in mind that any environmental damage caused by EPTs is very small compared to that caused by internal combustion vehicles. The potential for EPT e-waste should be a call for regulations and education to encourage responsible use and for sanctioning of abusers, and not a call for banning EPTs.