Adverts for Elfbar vapes have been banned for misleading consumers about their environmental benefits and the limited options for recycling the devices.

The poster and digital billboard ads, seen in London in late July and early August, stated “Recycling for a greener future”, followed by the recycling symbol.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 10 complaints, including from campaign group Adfree Cities and tobacco company Imperial Tobacco, who said the single-use vapes were not widely recyclable.

Elfbar told the ASA that 70% of people threw away their single-use vapes because they did not know they were recyclable, and the aim of the ad was to encourage consumers to engage with recycling.

The company did not think consumers would understand the ad as an absolute claim about the environmental impact of its products, or as a claim that its products were necessarily any more environmentally friendly or offered other environmental benefits compared with others.

At the time the ads were visible, 70 UK vape shops had dedicated Elfbar recycling bins, the firm added.

The collection process was run in partnership with a lithium-ion battery and vape recycling company that delivered the products to an appropriately certified recycling organisation in the UK, which disassembled them for the raw materials to be recycled and reused.

Elfbar said raising consumer awareness about recycling is not a legal obligation, but the company had chosen to invest in it.

The ASA said it understood that there were only limited recycling options for single-use vapes, some of which may not be easy for consumers to access.

The watchdog said: “We acknowledged Elfbar’s intention was for the ads to educate and encourage consumers to recycle, and that they would be undertaking initiatives that would increase consumers’ ability to do so.

“However, because consumers would understand from the ads that they would be able to recycle Elfbar’s single-use vapes through a wide variety of routes, including by easily accessible routes such as home recycling provisions, when that was not the case, we concluded the ads were misleading.”

The ASA also said it had not seen evidence that Elfbar’s recyclable vapes had less environmental impact than other vape products on the market, and concluded that the claim “for a greener future” was likely to mislead consumers.

It said: “We considered that the inaccurate impression that the products were fully recyclable combined with the claim ‘for a greener future’ exaggerated the environmental benefit of the products and was therefore likely to mislead consumers.”

It ruled that the ads must not appear again, adding: “We told Elfbar to ensure their future ads made the basis of environmental claims clear, and did not mislead as to the environmental impact or benefit of their products.”

An Elfbar spokesman said: “We respect the decision from the ASA and have taken steps to ensure stricter self-regulation in our advertisements and marketing.

“We are disappointed by any confusion this advertisement may have caused. Furthermore, we regret it has distracted from the progress of our GreenAwareness recycling project – a genuine and important effort to make it easier for adults to dispose of single-use vapes responsibly.

“As part of the ongoing programme, we have made our product easier to collect and disassemble for recycling purposes and aim to establish a closed-loop system by 2025. We are committed to these measures and complying with the guidelines set forth by the ASA.”