More and more cannabis products are being legalized—and now that industry is facing a packaging waste problem.

A recent article on Flexible Packaging’s website highlighted a problem that you might not be aware of yet, given the fact that the industry in question is pretty new. The fact is that the cannabis industry is growing so quickly that it is facing a sustainability problem with its packaging. It is generating waste at a rate that is causing some alarm bells to go off.

The goal of some cannabis professionals is to introduce a holistic approach to waste management that will move that industry to a more circular model. The article cites some interesting guidelines from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that can help the cannabis industry as well as any other industry that is plagued by excessive waste from single-use packaging. The Foundation’s three guiding principles are eliminating waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Plastic is the most common material in cannabis packaging for two main reasons. First, the product is perishable, and plastic helps to extend shelf life. Second, plastic provides the most effective child-resistant mechanisms, which are required in some form in every market in which cannabis is legal. The article cites numbers from a 2016 study that support the assertion that plastic packaging is an environmental problem: of the 78 million tons of plastic produced annually, 40 percent winds up in landfills and 32 percent makes its way into the environment. This is not a sustainable model.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision for a circular economy for the cannabis industry (and all industries that depend largely on plastics) involves six points. They are:

  • Problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging should be eliminated through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models.
  • Reuse models should be applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging
  • All plastic packaging should be 100 percent reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
  • All plastic packaging should be reused, recycled, or composted in practice.
  • Plastic use should be fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources.
  • Plastic should be free of hazardous chemicals, and the health and safety of all people involved should be respected.

As a rapidly growing and emerging industry that is still developing its best practices, cannabis has a unique opportunity to do things right from the ground up and create a circular economic model for cannabis packaging.

New products and new industries create a range of new challenges—and it has always been AMGRAPH’s mission to stay at the forefront of these market developments. The environmental impact of some smaller products might be minimal, but when a product takes off and grows at the rate of legal cannabis, manufacturers must consider environmental responsibility. If you find your business growing at a fast pace, congratulations! Give AMGRAPH a call, and we’ll work with you to look at your packaging practices and help you create a green, sustainable model for scaling your packaging.