When You Recycle Your Cannabis Packaging, Where Does it Go?
Did you know that in 2018 the cannabis industry was selling over one billion units of plastic per year? Here we are four years and a pandemic that saw the sales of weed skyrocket later, and you can only imagine what those statistics look like now.
Did you also know that there are very few means in which to effectively recycle the plastic containers that housed your cannabis products? Most, if not all plastic tubes, jars and bags in the state of Washington end up in the landfill. Where does the rest of the recycled packaging, such as glass and cardboard, end up? It gets mixed in with general recycling materials.
Prior to 2017 the US was shipping all of its recycling by barge to China, which suddenly gave the world the stiff arm to that arrangement in 2018. It makes sense. Of the plastic recycling that made it past the landfill bins in the US, we were sending an average of 1.42 million tons of the stuff to China per year. So where do we send these millions of tons of waste now? That’s a good question…
It is because of this disturbing trend that Canna West Seattle established a recycling program in 2019 specifically for cannabis and CBD related packaging called Canna Collect. Canna West and its owners were just doing the right thing as they saw it, but then King5 picked up on it and ran a story and before long Canna was buried with all sorts of recyclables.
However, as I mentioned above our world was hit with a pandemic in the Spring of 2020. As a result, Canna was forced to put the brakes on Canna Collect in order to protect the safety of its staff and customers until the pandemic is declared ‘over’. What does the future of Canna Collect look like? Time will tell, but before being shut down Canna West was overwhelmed with plastic.
It was also seeking remedies beyond handing it all over to a “recycler”, including talking with different artists and West Seattle-based community groups to find an artist or maker who could morph all of this plastic into a renewable piece of art. The harsh reality is that these plastics all transform at different temperatures and simply can’t be fused into one. According to the folks at Canna we should hold tight though, because they are not done with that project yet…
As for the industry? When Canna Collect was established it was the first dispensary based program in the country. Since then other dispensaries, all of them outside of Washington, have followed suit and some interesting startups and non-profit organizations focused on recycling cannabis packaging and pushing the industry for more sustainable packaging have started to emerge. This is encouraging, but we have a long way to go. The state of Washington could, for example, get started by following New York’s lead, where a deposit/reimbursement program for cannabis packaging has been introduced. Is it too heavy of a lift? We will see.