The hashish business has a waste disposal drawback. Whether or not it’s gnarly solvents used within the manufacturing course of or leftover biomass that have to be destroyed or further packaging required to make merchandise unimaginable for a kid (or an in any other case competent stoner) to open, authorized hashish creates loads of waste. Tons of it.

It’s appalling how a lot packaging is used to promote a couple of authorized buds. A Canadian Broadcasting Firm report prompt {that a} gram of weed bought at a licensed storefront in Canada, the place a authorized hashish business opened its doorways in 2018, can produce near 100 grams of packaging waste.

The issue of extra hashish waste is rooted within the legacy of criminalization that now manifests as pointless overregulation. Paradoxically, hashish overregulation is producing an enormous quantity of additional rubbish.

It doesn’t need to be that approach.

Plastic Packaging

Single-use packaging could also be the obvious drawback of waste for shoppers. Stroll down a sidewalk close to a hashish dispensary in Los Angeles or Seattle and also you’re more likely to see small plastic tubes and tamper-proof baggage which can be far bigger than the gadgets they as soon as held. A principal intent behind single-use packaging is to extra tightly monitor and management the plant’s sale, nevertheless it has created an infinite drawback of extreme waste, with as little as one gram or a single pre-rolled joint meriting its personal plastic container.

Figures supplied by Headset, a hashish data-analytics firm, point out that 32.5 million “models” of hashish prerolls had been bought in California in 2020. (A unit, on this case, may imply a single preroll in a plastic tube or as many as 10-20 prerolls in a carton.) And 53.6 million packets of free, manicured bud in childproof containers had been additionally bought final 12 months within the Golden State. The outsized plastic packaging for these “models” usually finally ends up as avenue litter or as refuse in a rubbish dump.

States which have legalized hashish require every product to incorporate a considerable amount of labeling, resembling well being warnings, identification numbers, soil and different crop manufacturing inputs, in addition to testing data and cannabinoid composition. Due to these labeling necessities, “packages find yourself being considerably bigger than the precise product requires,” in response to a June 2020 report printed within the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal, and most of it’s destined for a landfill. “The most important drawback with packaging and labeling are the quite a few laws that lead to further packaging getting used to suit every thing on the product,” the Regulation Journal notes.

Colorado regulators just lately adopted new rules that make it considerably simpler for hashish shoppers to recycle their stash-related trash. Dispensaries within the Centennial State are actually allowed to supply packaging receptacles of their lobbies. In January 2021, the Airfield Supply Co., a hashish dispensary based mostly in San Jose, CA, carried out an analogous recycling program. However that is the exception, not the rule.

Owing to the present patchwork of legalization regimes, there’s no central authority monitoring hashish waste in most states, not to mention throughout the US. California, for example, has three separate state businesses with their very own waste administration laws for various components of the hashish manufacturing course of. And Canada doesn’t observe hashish waste packaging in any respect.

Enterprise Alternatives

A handful of startups have recognized the big waste drawback as a inexperienced enterprise alternative. Ron Basak-Smith, one of many younger entrepreneurs behind Sana Packaging, spoke with Venture CBD about his firm’s efforts to develop one of many few manufacturers based mostly solely on sustainable packaging for hashish merchandise. He and his accomplice James Eicher, each current enterprise college graduates, are utilizing hemp, reclaimed ocean plastic, and different non-petroleum-based supplies to create a closed-loop enterprise mannequin that generates no waste, with their packaging materials both recycled into additional use (for nonbiodegradable plastics) or discarded in a approach that doesn’t speed up air pollution.

The mannequin is predicated on the Ellen MacArthur Basis’s definition of a “Circular Economy,” which goals to design waste and air pollution out of the financial system whereas conserving supplies in fixed use and serving to to regenerate pure methods. Thus far, Basak-Smith says, Sana Packaging has labored with 370 prospects, largely within the US with a handful in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

“If [cannabis producers] are utilizing regenerative agricultural practices to domesticate their merchandise, they want to think about issues like packaging as an extension of that,” says Basak-Smith. “You don’t need a disconnect between producer and shopper on the level of sale due to unsustainable packaging. It’s all a part of an even bigger image.”

One other enterprise on the precipice of improvements in hashish packaging is Sungrown, an Oakland-based packaging firm that works instantly with prospects to design sustainable, customized packaging fabricated from fully compostable supplies. In keeping with the corporate’s web site, its “printing course of makes use of water-based coatings and soy-based inks and we’re proud to supply our supplies domestically.”

PolyCanna, a Colorado-based enterprise, emphasizes hemp-sourced sustainable packaging choices, in addition to inventive recycling and upcycling methods for mitigating cannabis-related waste. “The primary focus proper now, PolyCanna CEO Tyler Sofa advised Ganjapreneur, “is to seek out viable options for the single-use oil-based plastic that the business at the moment has whereas we combine bioplastics. The trick is discovering a approach for single use plastic to by no means attain to ocean or landfills within the first place.”

Voluminous Vapes

Because the business evolves, new types of hashish consumption will probably necessitate new methods  to bundle and correctly get rid of waste. Vape cartridges are a major instance of one thing few imagined can be a problem a decade in the past, however now poses a problem for sustainability advocates.

In 2019, CannaCraft, Inc., a significant hashish producer based mostly in Santa Rosa, CA, modified its manufacturing course of to childproof vape cartridges with out including further single-use plastic – an innovation commended by the California Division of Public Well being. CannaCraft produces two million vape cartridges yearly.

The next 12 months, 27.8 million plastic vape “models” had been bought in California, in response to Headset. However when OMG Farms, based mostly in Arcata, tried to provoke a bring-back program for patrons to return used vape cartridges to dispensaries, misguided laws in California made this system unfeasible.

Vape retailers have struggled to determine what to do with cartridges – inevitably, they find yourself in landfills as a result of California and different states bar recycling crops from accepting waste that has come into contact with hashish merchandise. The Sacramento-based nonprofit Up Kindness sponsored an artwork exhibit final 12 months made fully of vape cartridges to boost consciousness of the difficulty. In the meantime, proposed laws in California meant to handle comparable waste from tobacco vaping appears to have gone nowhere.

The New Jersey-based enterprise TerraCycle has developed a nationwide recycling program for vape cartridges, in addition to other forms of hashish packaging. It’s a part of the corporate’s bigger mission to accomplice with companies and native governments searching for to get rid of hard-to-recycle waste, resembling espresso pods and different plastics. Terracycle operates numerous recycling packages in 21 nations, however its solely cannabis-focused waste program is in Canada.

Biomass Boondoggle

In 1988, Francis Younger, the DEA’s chief administrative legislation choose, unexpectedly (and precisely) declared in a nonbinding authorized opinion that hashish “in its pure kind is likely one of the most secure therapeutically lively substances identified to man” and “is safer than many meals we generally devour.” However regulators in states which have legalized hashish proceed to deal with the herb as if it’s a lethal, radioactive poison that have to be dealt with and disposed of in a particular approach.

Simply as many state laws require extreme hashish packaging and prohibit their correct recycling, hashish biomass will also be tough to get rid of. Not as a result of it’s a harmful, inorganic materials, however as a result of pink tape in lots of states doesn’t permit mixing waste from the Evil Weed with different supplies. Illinois, for instance, requires any producer that desires to destroy hashish waste should notify the Division of Agriculture and State Police, and presumably should even have an worker from the agriculture division or one other state company current in the course of the destruction. Reefer insanity by no means appears to finish.

Conscious that time-intensive composting shouldn’t be an environment friendly disposal technique for a lot of cultivators, Micronwaste Technologies, based mostly in Vancouver, Canada, says it has discovered an answer to onerous laws on discarding hashish biomass. The corporate’s “Cannavore” technique primarily pulverizes hashish waste into water, mixing it with microbes and enzymes till it may be reused as water to irrigate hashish crops. The method doesn’t emit methane – which is an issue with different strategies of acquiring produced water – and the corporate claims the water will also be despatched again into municipal sewage as soon as it has eliminated all “Energetic Pharmaceutical Components” within the crop.

Mushroom Mycelium & Hemp Hurd

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Hemp-mushroom composite clone planters

A number of different firms are creating hemp-derived options to handle the difficulty of hashish business waste that state laws have both ignored or outright exacerbated.

Paradise Packaging in Butte County, CA, produces a singular, cardboard-like composite fabricated from hemp and mushroom mycelium that’s appropriate for formed or molded packaging materials and different makes use of, that are relevant for a lot of forms of merchandise, not simply hashish merchandise.

The hemp-mushroom composite “is a hundred percent bio-based and a hundred percent compostable,” Paradise Packaging co-founder Ciaran McCarthy advised Venture CBD. “It’s additionally water resistant and fire-resistant.”

Along with packaging and transport containers for a variety of merchandise, together with hashish tinctures and wine bottles, Paradise Packaging is advertising biodegradable, mushroom/hemp composite seed starters and planters for hashish clones.

“There’s an enormous demand for this materials,” says McCarthy, who appreciates the astonishing versatility of low-resin, industrial hemp, a plant with tens of hundreds of potential functions. To which we must always add another – sustainable, hemp-based packaging to mitigate the rising drawback of waste generated by the hashish business.


Aaron Miguel Cantú is an investigative journalist based mostly in Los Angeles and Martin A. Lee is the director of Venture CBD. This text is tailored from a forthcoming Venture CBD report on Hashish and the Inexperienced New Deal.

Copyright, Venture CBD. Will not be reprinted with out permission.