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

Plastic Packaging

Single-use packaging could also be the obvious downside of waste for customers. Stroll down a sidewalk close to a hashish dispensary in Los Angeles or Seattle and also you’re prone to see small plastic tubes and tamper-proof luggage 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, however it has created an infinite downside 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 “items” of hashish prerolls had been bought in California in 2020. (A unit, on this case, might imply a single preroll in a plastic tube or as many as 10-20 prerolls in a carton.) And 53.6 million packets of unfastened, manicured bud in childproof containers had been additionally bought final yr within the Golden State. The outsized plastic packaging for these “items” typically finally ends up as road litter or as refuse in a rubbish dump.

States which have legalized hashish require every product to incorporate a considerable amount of labeling, corresponding to 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 line with 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 downside with packaging and labeling are the quite a few laws that end in additional packaging getting used to suit every little thing on the product,” the Regulation Journal notes.

Colorado regulators just lately adopted new rules that make it considerably simpler for hashish customers 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 primarily based 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 downside 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 primarily based solely on sustainable packaging for hashish merchandise. He and his accomplice James Eicher, each current enterprise faculty 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 manner that doesn’t speed up air pollution.

The mannequin relies 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 retaining supplies in fixed use and serving to to regenerate pure programs. Thus far, Basak-Smith says, Sana Packaging has labored with 370 clients, principally 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 a much bigger image.”

One other enterprise on the precipice of improvements in hashish packaging is Sungrown, an Oakland-based packaging firm that works instantly with clients to design sustainable, customized packaging fabricated from utterly compostable supplies. In response to 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 instructed Ganjapreneur, “is to search out viable options for the single-use oil-based plastic that the business at present has whereas we combine bioplastics. The trick is discovering a manner 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 doubtless necessitate new methods  to package deal and correctly get rid of waste. Vape cartridges are a main instance of one thing few imagined can be a difficulty a decade in the past, however now poses a problem for sustainability advocates.

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

The next yr, 27.8 million plastic vape “items” had been bought in California, in line with Headset. However when OMG Farms, primarily based in Arcata, tried to provoke a bring-back program for purchasers 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 yr made completely 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 looking for to get rid of hard-to-recycle waste, corresponding to espresso pods and different plastics. Terracycle operates numerous recycling applications in 21 international locations, however its solely cannabis-focused waste program is in Canada.

Biomass Boondoggle

In 1988, Francis Younger, the DEA’s chief administrative regulation choose, unexpectedly (and precisely) declared in a nonbinding authorized opinion that hashish “in its pure kind is without doubt one of the most secure therapeutically energetic substances recognized to man” and “is safer than many meals we generally eat.” 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 manner.

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

Conscious that time-intensive composting is just not an environment friendly disposal technique for a lot of cultivators, Micronwaste Technologies, primarily based in Vancouver, Canada, says it has discovered an answer to onerous laws on discarding hashish biomass. The corporate’s “Cannavore” technique basically 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 can be despatched again into municipal sewage as soon as it has eliminated all “Energetic Pharmaceutical Elements” within the crop.

Mushroom Mycelium & Hemp Hurd

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Hemp-mushroom composite clone planters

A number of different firms are growing 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 varieties of merchandise, not simply hashish merchandise.

The hemp-mushroom composite “is 100% bio-based and 100% compostable,” Paradise Packaging co-founder Ciaran McCarthy instructed 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 1000’s of potential functions. To which we must always add yet another – sustainable, hemp-based packaging to mitigate the rising downside of waste generated by the hashish business.


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

Copyright, Venture CBD. Is probably not reprinted with out permission.