Legal Cannabis And Sustainability: Plastic Waste From Packaging Is Becoming A Problem in The US and Canada

Since cannabis became legal in Canada, sustainability still leaves room for improvement, mitigating the millions of pounds of plastic packaging that legal marijuana produces every year.

According to reporting by Leafly, in 2018—the first year of cannabis legalization in Canada—solid black plastic containers were the most visible containers on the market. Additionally, several brands have opted to package their cannabis products in fancy-looking but non-recyclable packaging.

Also, jars, which are common for selling flowers, take decades to decompose, which pump toxins into the soil and eventually make their way into the nearest ocean. It is difficult to quantify, the market plastic waste problem but the overall impact has been negative.

In 2019, the environmental company Re Waste estimated that "between 5.8 and 6.4 million kilograms (or between 12.7 and 14.1 million pounds) of plastic from cannabis packaging ended up in landfills between October 2018 and August 2019."

"Plastic waste and the Cannabis industry tend to go hand in hand, but our specialized process works to mitigate the impact of this plastic waste on the environment," Re Waste said on its website.

In the meantime, cannabis sales and the variety of products available have only increased since then.

A CBC report found that "for every gram of cannabis sold legally, up to 70 grams of plastic waste was generated."

"It's really shameful," said Remi Robichaud of Moncton, Canada. "Being a coastal province, they should do something about the amount of plastic that goes into our ocean."

What Are The Sustainable Measures Taken In The US Cannabis Market?

Marijuana packaging waste is an issue that involved the incipient industry—extending from regulators, and producers to consumers.

However, industry-wide efforts to promote the implementation of the use of recycled materials and encourage consumers to recycle packaging are visible.

As an example,Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board recently released its “Guidance on Packaging,” to reduce the amount of plastic waste being generated by the industry in the state.

According to the guidance, "packaging intended for consumer purchase at retail locations needs to be reusable and not plastic. All packaging should be capable of repeated recovery, sanitation, and reissue into the supply chain for repeated use."

Examples of reusable, non-plastic packaging materials mentioned in the document include glass, tin, cardboard, and bamboo.

Photo: Courtesy of Fateme Alaie On Unsplash

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Posted In: CannabisESGMarketscannabis industrylegal marijuanaVermont Cannabis Control Board[Re] Waste
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