Licensed producers launch recycling programs to combat cannabis packaging waste
April 30, 2019
Ontario licensed producer (LP) Tweed Marijuana Inc. has launched a recycling program aimed at collecting and reprocessing federally mandated plastic weed containers.
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The program comes from a partnership with TerraCycle—an eco-friendly company running privately funded campaigns around the world.
TerraCycle works with companies to “upcycle” and repurpose common waste products, turning discarded drink containers into reusable tote bags, circuit boards into coasters, and fax machines into flower pots. It also collects and melts general waste, reforming it into pellets to be used in the making of benches, picnic tables, and playgrounds. Now, TerraCycle is working with Health Canada's LPs to combat a rising plastics problem spawning from new federal laws.
After new legislation came into effect in late 2018, critics have taken aim at Health Canada’s packaging guidelines, which require federally approved companies to store products, like dried flower and pre-rolls, in individual plastic, child-proof containers. Labels must also be plain and carry both a health warning and standardized cannabis symbol—making it increasingly difficult for brands to educate consumers on the contents.
Before the new laws came into effect, most grey market dispensaries would opt to store and display bulk amounts of dried cannabis in large glass jars—dispensing grams into small plastic baggies on a customer-by-customer basis.
Both retailers and consumers have called the federal government’s packaging guidelines bulky. Considering the spike in consumer demand ushered in by the legalization of adult-use cannabis last year, many believe the amount of containers set to be tossed out after use pose a risk to the environment.
Some environmentally-conscious companies, like American hemp packaging manufacturer Sana Packaging, estimate that more than one billion units of single-use plastic packaging will be discarded in North America per year by 2020.
The "Tweed x TerraCycle Cannabis Packaging Recycling Program" was introduced in select stores and provinces in October 2018. The countrywide launch was on Earth Day this year (April 22). The program accepts cannabis containers, including tins, bags, tubes, and bottles, from any licensed producer. In addition to drop off points in all Tweed and Tweed-owned Tokyo Smoke retail outlets, consumers can also register online for free pickup of discarded containers.
Alberta-based High Tide Inc. and Namaste Technologies are also amongst a select few federally licensed cannabis corporations also investing in recycling programs—setting up branded collection boxes in retail outlets across Canada.
We take customer feedback seriously, and we have heard you loud and clear that legal cannabis packaging is hard on the environment. With that said, we are happy to announce we have introduced a #recycling program at our stores.
In a release, Tweed says the program is active in more than 106 legal cannabis stores and has already diverted over 165,000 containers from landfills.
"As a community, we came together quickly to address the sustainability concern in our industry and I'm so proud of what we've accomplished so far," says Hilary Black, Tweed’s chief advocacy officer, in a release.
"Through this ground-breaking recycling solution, these now common items are collected on a national scale from all licensed producers and given a second life as a different product, thereby extending the lifecycle of the packaging material,” adds Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle.
Companies in legal regions in the United States, like Sungrown Packaging, have already committed to proliferating natural paperboard solutions, while others, like Sana, offer plant-based hemp bioplastic and reclaimed ocean plastic alternatives. Nitrogen Cannabis Packaging has also created innovative metal solutions, which offers nitrogen purged aluminum tins that keep organic product fresh through the delivery chain and are easy to recycle.
In Canada, hemp is regulated under the Industrial Hemp Act and it can be used to create a variety of biodegradable products, however licensed producers have yet to opt for the environmentally-sustainable alternative.