How The Cannabis Industry Is Reducing Plastic Waste
Each day, humans around the world contribute to the rapid decline of environmental health, spurring on global climate change and putting our planet and all that live on it in deeper trouble. Among the many issues contributing to the spread of climate change is plastic pollution, a singular issue that has captured the hearts and minds of millions now working to eliminate plastic from their daily lives to save the planet.
Plastic is everywhere, used in products from every industry and by countless manufacturers for its versatility and low price-point. Theoretically, plastic is even recyclable and should be relatively easy to reuse, making it additionally economically viable. Unfortunately, more than 91% of all plastic waste goes un-recycled, left instead to sit in landfills or to pollute natural ecosystems like lakes, rivers, and oceans. Because plastic cannot be reliably recycled, businesses and consumers will need to find other ways to eliminate plastic waste.
Is The Cannabis Industry Truly Green?
The cannabis industry is a relatively new one in the U.S., with states slowly beginning to decriminalize and legalize recreational marijuana over the last decade or so. As more states have joined those like California and Colorado in allowing their residents to purchase and consume cannabis products, the industry as a whole has seen a major surge, opening doors for companies to begin producing more unique, exciting products.
Although the increased availability of cannabis products has been an overall win for marijuana lovers, the upward trending market has not necessarily been so kind to the environment. While cannabis growers, cultivators, and innovators may deal in green, their operations aren’t always the, well...greenest. The majority of cannabis brands produce products that include plastic components or are packaged in plastic, adding the cannabis industry to the long list of plastic pollution culprits.
How Cannabis & CBD Products Are Packaged
Cannabis packaging guidelines vary slightly from state to state, but no matter where you reside, some guidelines remain the same. Here are just a few of the rules cannabis manufacturers must follow when creating packaging for their products:
- Packaging must be child-resistant to prevent young children from inadvertently consuming cannabis. This applies to flowers, edibles, concentrates, etc.
- Consumers must be able to tell whether the package has been previously opened
- Packaging must be resealable, even for single-use packaging
- Packaging for edibles must be opaque to prevent children from seeing the contents of the package
With these basic guidelines in mind, most cannabis companies have found similar methods of packing their products. For example, most dispensaries sell flowers in child-proof jars and bottles, offer edibles in thick plastic bags and containers, and sell pre-rolls and vape cartridges in plastic tubes.
What Is Cannabis Packaging Made Of?
Because cannabis packaging must be durable, child-proof, and sanitary, cannabis products are typically packaged in the same materials as food, beverage, and pharmaceutical products.
Although glass plays a huge role in the cannabis world, it isn’t the top pick for most manufacturers, since glass can be more expensive to create than plastic. Because of this, glass jars are most commonly used by premium brands to hold a flower and concentrate. Glass components can also be found in vape cartridges, or may be used to hold pre-rolls. Glass can be recycled almost infinitely, making it a super environmentally friendly material.
Plastic is the most common material used in cannabis packaging and can be found in the packaging of almost every popular brand. Even those companies utilizing glass jars typically seal those jars with plastic child-proof lids, since plastic can easily be molded into any shape. Plastic can also be made opaque or translucent, allowing manufacturers to protect products from UV rays to keep them fresh for longer. Plastic is also relatively lightweight, making it easier to ship and more affordable to the source. Although most plastic can be recycled, most ends up in oceans and landfills.
Paper and cardboard are most commonly used to wrap edibles like chocolate bars but can be found in use for concentrate, vape, and flower packaging. Paper and cardboard can easily be recycled, making them a good eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Unfortunately, paper and cardboard aren’t particularly good materials for holding a wide variety of products and don’t offer the same protection and sanitary benefits as glass or plastic.
Some companies have begun exploring hemp packaging alternatives, which can typically be recycled or are classed as biodegradable or compostable, meaning they easily break down in a landfill.
What Is the Environmental Impact of the Cannabis Industry?
While widespread availability of premium cannabis products is an overall win for everyone, the growth of the cannabis industry has come with some unfortunate consequences. Like many other industries, the most affordable packaging options for most cannabis companies include the use of plastic. Once used, most cannabis packaging is simply tossed in the trash where it is brought to a landfill, or dumped unceremoniously into the ocean.
In a landfill, plastic products can take hundreds of years to begin to break down, at which point they only become smaller pieces of plastic rather than decomposing. In the oceans, plastic packaging slowly breaks down into microplastics which float for miles, polluting important habitats and accidentally being consumed by unwitting marine creatures.
What Green Initiatives Are Cannabis Companies Supporting?
Fortunately, some cannabis companies are pushing back against plastic pollution, working to create more sustainable packaging options to support the planet without reducing the quality of their products. Here are just three examples of cannabis companies supporting green initiatives:
Mana Botanics produces high-quality hemp and CBD products infused with nutrient-rich Hawaiian botanicals to provide an added dose of wellness. In addition to caring about the wellness of their customers, Mana Botanics cares about the planet, which is why they have partnered with rePurpose Global and Taka Taka to tackle pollution.
For every purchase made from Mana Botanics, the company donates a percentage to TakaTaka Solutions, which uses the funding to collect and process low-value plastic waste, creating new products and packaging. The project to date has helped to divert more than 10,200 lbs of plastic from the oceans and provides more than 50 workers with additional income.
Sana Packaging is a packaging manufacturer on a mission to eliminate plastic waste with their 100% plant-based hemp-plastic alternative cannabis packaging. Hemp grows rapidly, is relatively low impact, and requires less water than most other industrial crops. Hemp can even be grown over and over again in the same soil since the plant naturally replenishes the earth rather than needing to be rotated every few seasons. Among many packaging options, Sana Packaging offers a 100% hemp child-proof concentrate container, an all-hemp jar lid for your favorite flower jar, and a variety of pre-roll tubes made from hemp plastic.
Want to know if the cannabis you are buying is grown sustainably and made with the most ethical environmental practices? Search for the Sun+Earth Certification! Awarded to cannabis growers using the best, most natural, and sustainable practices, the Sun+Earth Certification can be obtained by companies that prove they treat their employees, the planet, and their customers with respect.
How Can Consumers Help Reduce Plastic Waste?
Wish you could turn back the clock on all of those plastic jars and tubes you’ve tossed away after a trip to the dispensary? No need to dwell on the past - think to the future, and do your best to reduce plastic waste however you can!
Support Sustainable Brands
If you are concerned about your environmental footprint, one of the easiest ways to cut out plastic from your cannabis routine is to support sustainable brands. With every bottle of turmeric CBD oil you purchase from Mana Botanics you are helping eliminate one pound of nature bound plastic. Do your best to purchase products from brands you know are working to eliminate plastic and create a better world, that way you’ll know your money is going to the right place.
Recycle Glass Packaging
Whenever you receive glass packaging from a dispensary or cannabis company, do your best to recycle it. Glass packaging can simply be washed, dried, and put in your home recycling bin - just be sure to separate glass components from any plastic or paper before recycling.
Grow Your Cannabis
If you want to eliminate packaging, there is always the option to grow your cannabis! Once your crop reaches maturity and has been hung, dried, and cured, store your home-grown flower in large glass containers away from open sunlight to keep it fresh for months to come.