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The Impact: Good Things Can Come in Small (Environmental Footprint) Packages

August 1, 2018

By, Greg Heilers

The Impact is a weekly series that looks at how the growing cannabis industries affects our environment. Each week, we examine and explain what is the environmental impact of marijuana. Writer Greg Heilers takes a look at how some manufacturers are using plastic-free packaging for their products.

The cannabis industry continually grows across the United States, and with that growth there have been a number of benefits — and unintended consequences.

Environmentally aware cannabis consumers may have noticed that the pollution and waste generated through cultivation and manufacturing is detrimental for the environment. Plastic pollution and waste, in particular, are becoming a concern to many.

Can Cannabis Companies Make Environmental and Sustainable Packaging? It Turns Out, Yes.  

Some companies are making efforts to revolutionize the packaging for cannabis products. While each state has track-and-trace regulations in place that may affect the range of available options, current packaging initiatives include:

  • Using recycled and recyclable components
  • Recycling incentives
  • Sourcing plant-origin alternatives, such as hemp and bamboo

Some cannabis companies have begun to adopt recycling methods in the making of their packaging, using recycled materials and encouraging customers to recycle their products.

Michael Harinen, chief brand officer at Bluebird Botanicals of Louisville, Colorado, described the company’s utilization of plastics as “minimal — always recycled and recyclable.”

Thrive Cannabis Marketplace’s (TCM) CEO Mitch Britten told he stressed the importance of using, “sustainability[as]a fundamental building block” to building the company. TCM’s cultivation brand, Green and Gold Supply Co., has already discarded the use of plastic-based bags in favor of glass jars. Britten has found the use of plastic bags to be “prevalent throughout our industry.”

TCM also plans for a sustainable solution for packaging its line of pre-rolls. The impact for pre-rolls alone could be substantial considering the combined pre-rolled joint sales in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon reached $158 million in 2016, according to BDS Analytics. Washington dispensaries alone sold more than 11 million pre-rolled joints.

The use of alternative plant-based products has become another important tool for environmentally-conscious cannabis companies.    

Bluebird Botanicals reduces its carbon footprint by sourcing alternative materials.  “Even the ink we use for our marketing materials is petroleum-free and made from hemp,” Harinen said.

Harinen told that US production and manufacturing abilities are now bringing “hemp-containing bioplastics, papers, and textiles into competitive price ranges.” Bluebird’s business cards and marketing materials are printed with hemp-based inks. The paper the cards are printed on are a blend of 25 percent hemp and 75 percent post-consumer recycled paper.

According to Harinen, despite shipping over 7,000 units each week, Bluebird Botanicals continues to innovate by “looking into hemp bioplastic caps for jars of topical and soft gel products. It’s a mighty green road ahead!”

One of Bluebird’s packaging companies is Sana Packaging, a Denver hemp-centric company that provides ecologically conscious options for consumer packaged manufacturers.

TCM recently executed an exclusive arrangement with Hisierra, a Southern California company that dispensary exit bags. According to Britten, this agreement will supply TCM’s retail outlets with “sustainable, eco-friendly child resistant exit packaging that’s created from plant-based fibers and made with renewable energy.”

Papa & Barkley tinctures are covered with bamboo lids. The company was created by CEO Adam Grossman when he was seeking an all-natural solution to his father’s debilitating back pain. Not long after, he felt compelled to bring the product to the market. As the company scaled, the environmental impact increased with its consumer base.

According to Grossman, the company is keeping a close eye on “innovations in the packaging arena, such as biodegradable plastic made from hemp.” Though California’s track-and-trace regulations will continue to affect their options on that front, Papa & Barkley and others are continuing to investigate ways in which they can reduce their environmental impact.

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