3 Ways Cannabis Stakeholders Reduce Packaging Waste

TerraCycle Include Canada (English) zero waste box Canopy Growth
This April, recycling and upcycling are key trends in cannabis-packaging sustainability. In-dispensary recycling programs are emerging and evolving, and one packaging supplier has launched cannabis packaging made from reclaimed ocean waste.
Here are their stories … 1. Dispensary uses packaging to fuel cannabis manufacturer’s deliveries. 2. TerraCycle takes on Canada. 3. Upcycled ocean plastic for cannabis brands.
1. Dispensary uses packaging to fuel cannabis manufacturer’s deliveries.
Capture 92.PNG San Jose, CA-based Airfield Supply, which bills itself as the largest single-site cannabis dispensary in California, is using the annual 420 (April 20) cannabis-celebration day to promote an innovative cannabis-packaging recycling program that began in November 2020. Airfield is asking its customers to bring their clean cannabis-packaging plastic waste to the dispensary for recycling and in return receive a coupon which, together with 10 cents, is redeemable for a “420 special product.” A minimum $25 purchase is also required. Products offered in the promotion include infused beverages, gummies, vape cartridges, pre-rolls, and more. “This is the core campaign we are focusing on this 420 season, so we are using all of our communication channels to drive awareness and engagement across email, social, in-store media, and through budtenders,” says Chris Lane, chief marketing officer at Airfield Supply. “Every customer will be engaged on the topic, which we hope is more than 15,000 people in a matter of days who can take action on their next visit.” The hope is that this “action” could become a recycling habit. Lane adds, “We’re using the 420 cannabis ‘holiday’ to motivate and engage with our customers by offering them 10-cent products in exchange for their trash. Our hope is that this starts a pattern that will continue.” Airfield is the first dispensary to partner with cannabis manufacturer CannaCraft and plastics upcycler Resynergi on the pilot program, in which plastic from used cannabis packaging is converted into diesel fuel. When Airfield customers leave the dispensary with their purchases, they receive a low-density polyethylene (LDPE) pouch for storage of used cannabis packaging. When they return to the dispensary, they drop the recyclable pouch into a black-and-white Resynergi recycling bin. CannaCraft picks up the recycled materials each week when dropping off new cannabis products for the dispensary. Resynergi uses an energy-efficient, low-emissions pyrolysis process to convert the plastic packaging into diesel fuel, which is then used by CannaCraft to power its delivery vehicles. Resynergi can convert one ton of waste into about 200 gallons of diesel fuel. “We take high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene — types 2, 4, and 5,” says Brian Bauer, CEO of Resynergi. “We plan to take low-density PE in the form of films like bags, which is new to the industry.” Airfield has recycled hundreds of pounds of packaging waste so far. Waste from all cannabis brands is accepted, and plastic waste from CannaCraft’s manufacturing operation is also used in Resynergi’s pyrolysis operation. For dispensaries, creating opportunities for package recycling and upcycling “couldn’t be more important,” Lane says. “Given that we’re centered on a plant, it only seems natural and correct that our approach be gentle to the Earth and thoughtful about the environment. As a successful dispensary in a large state with very few dispensaries, we’re in a unique position to help shape the industry. We can stop cannabis packaging plastics from flooding our landfills — and we should. It’s that simple.” 2. TerraCycle takes on Canada. Capture 93.PNG
North of the US border, TerraCycle has partnered with Canopy Growth and that company’s Tweed and Tokyo Smoke brands to recycle all brands of cannabis packaging and all Canopy Growth-produced vape products throughout Canada. Hundreds of Canadian dispensaries are participating in TerraCycle’s Cannabis Recycling Program and Cannabis Vapes Retailer Recycling Program, which launched in October 2018 and December 2019, respectively. The dispensaries use in-store recycling bins to collect the waste. One bin is for vape products only, including cartridges and batteries. The other bin is for all other types of cannabis packaging — primary and secondary plastic packaging, tins, joint tubes, plastic bottles and caps, and plastic bags. “To date, 6.3 million pieces of cannabis packaging and vaporizers have been collected for recycling through the Cannabis Recycling Program,” says Alex Payne, a publicist for TerraCycle. The programs play a special role in Canada’s recycling infrastructure because much of the child-proof packaging required for cannabis products is not recyclable across the country. TerraCycle sorts the materials, shredding and cleaning plastic for upcycling into products such as park benches and picnic tables. Recycled metals are melted, poured into ingot molds, and used to make metal-based products. Since last summer, TerraCycle has also been selling Zero Waste Boxes for cannabis-packaging waste to consumers in Canada. Consumers can order a Cannabis Packaging Zero Waste Box or Cannabis Vapes Zero Waste Box online, fill the box with the designated waste, and then ship the box back to TerraCycle using a pre-paid shipping label. The returned materials are sorted and repurposed into affordable recycled products.
3. Upcycled ocean plastic for cannabis brands.
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Sana Packaging, which develops sustainable cannabis packaging using materials like 100% plant-based hemp plastic, has recently tackled the problem of ocean plastic. Since December 2020, the company has launched jars, lids, and tubes made from 100% reclaimed ocean plastic. The 4-oz Sana Ocean Jar 4 and Sana Ocean Screw-Top Lid are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE); this package can be used for cannabis flower, edibles, and topicals. Sana Ocean Tubes, used to pack pre-rolls, blunts, and vape pens, are made of polypropylene (PP). The tubes and jars are child-resistant certified and resealable. “We source our reclaimed ocean plastic in partnership with Oceanworks, a global marketplace for reclaimed ocean materials,” says James Eichner, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Sana Packaging. “One of the big value-adds that Oceanworks provides is the verification that we’re sourcing pure materials. Our 100% reclaimed ocean plastic is Oceanworks Guaranteed, FDA certified, and — depending on the product — a pure HDPE (#2 recyclable) or a pure PP (#5 recyclable).” Though still more expensive than conventional alternatives, Sana’s ocean plastic offerings are coming down in price. “Our first reclaimed ocean plastic products were [two to three times] more expensive than their traditional counterparts,” Eichner says. “However, we’ve been able to reduce our pricing significantly though a combination of scaling up our operations and designing more efficient products. Our newer reclaimed ocean plastic products are around 15% to 25% more expensive than their traditional counterparts.”