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The Complicated World of Cannabis Waste Generation (Part Two)

Jul. 18, 2019

Part two of a two-part series looks at potential packaging and labor relations issues as more states legalize recreational marijuana.

In January 2018, recreational cannabis became legal to cultivate, distribute, manufacture and sell in California. As an entity under California’s Department of Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) regulates the disposal, management and recycling of non-hazardous solid waste, including organic waste.

Lance Klug, public information officer for CalRecycle, says the department does not have data or information to share specifically related to cannabis waste generation or cannabis-related packaging waste. However, cannabis itself is considered organic waste (if not combined with any hazardous or toxic material) and is subject to the same disposal/recycling requirements as other green waste, with recycling mandates in place for businesses that generate 4 or more cubic yards of solid waste per week.

“While CalRecycle is not aware of any research into what packaging is being used in this industry, we know packaging waste is a big problem in California and makes up about 25 percent of the state’s disposal stream,” explains Klug. “While helpful and necessary to keep people and products safe and prevent more waste, packaging can often be excessive or made from problem materials that can’t easily be recycled.”

“In addition to checking with your hauler to see what [packaging] materials are recyclable in your area, consumers can get involved by opting or advocating for reusable over single-use disposal and demanding better from manufactures and retailers,” adds Klug. “For its part, the packaging industry can be part of the solution by using recycled content to manufacture their products, making containers reusable and ensuring non-reusable packaging is readily recyclable.”

Active cannabis companies around the market have made more environmentally friendly and sustainable developments when it comes to cultivation and packaging waste. For instance, The Marijuana Company of America, a hemp and cannabis corporation, along with joint-venture partner Global Hemp Group, announced the start of commercial planting at its hemp farm in Scio, Ore.

The Scio farm, operating under the name Covered Bridge Acres Ltd., recently finished preparing a 35-acre land for planting and is in the process of obtaining organic certification. According to the company, this season's harvest was more environmentally friendly, with biodegradable plastic mulch brought in from Canada to eliminate the end-of-season environmental waste, thus reducing labor costs associated with its removal from the field.

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