Greenest Cannabis Must Start Now

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AUTHOR: Heather Allman
PUBLISHER:  CANNABIS LAW REPORT
Cartridges, Batteries and Waste, Oh My! — Part 2
  • What about sustainability in the U.S. cannabis industry in 2018?

The scary question as discussed directly in Ryan Miller’s June 2018 article on Recycling in the Cannabis Industry: Nipping a cannabis garbage problem in the bud.

Eaze’s 2017 State of Cannabis report claims:

According to BDS analytics, in April of 2018, $52.3MM in vape products were sold in California, representing 25% of overall cannabis market sales.[i] While it’s hard to break that dollar figure down into actual units (especially since it contains cartridges, batteries, and all-in-one units) lets estimate that represents over 1 million items purchased that need to get disposed of.[ii]

“The material in them, with the exception of the actual part holding cannabis, is completely recyclable or reusable. The body is made of recyclable plastic, the battery inside can find life in another product, and the electronics can be reused in another device.

“Many of these same folks have a box of used cartridges in their home, since they have no idea what to do with them. And this isn’t for lack of want — in fact in 2017 some forward thinking dispensaries had collection boxes for these products, although without scale they wound up just hoarding them as well.

“Since this issue is particular relevant to us and our customers, we knew we have to take the initiative. We did some research and discovered that leaders in the e-cigarette industry have already established expansive recycling initiatives for used e-cigarette cartridges and lithium batteries, so the infrastructure is already there. But it has to be done at scale. The only way to achieve this scale is to use dispensaries as the collection points, much like some were already doing back in 2017.”

Obviously, modifications to these regulations were proposed:

  1. A modification of the California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Division 42 (MAUCURSA), Section 5410, to allow customers to return cannabis contaminated hardware products (such as vapes) to any licensed retailer. If dispensary elects to participate they have to let the state know and provide a locked box collection point that can be inspected at any time. It can simply be added to the track and trace with a general count (inspection should require count is within 20% of total items in box). Locked box would be provided by a distributor or manufacturer.

SOURCE 》 [v] CA Code of Regulations, Title 16, Division 42, Section 5055(e) http://bcc.ca.gov/law_regs/readopt_text_final.pdf

Joe Kukura on November 1, 2018 answers “Currently no, but some vape and oil manufacturers hope to make the sector significantly greener.”

“The dirty little secret of cannabis vaping is that cartridges and vape pens generally cannot be recycled, so they pile up in landfills. Even though most components are made of recycled materials, their condition after use leaves them ineligible to be handled by standard curbside services.

“Industry recycling advocates have been stymied by the very regulations that were intended to keep cannabis safe and sustainable.”

  • Are there any recyclable e-cigarettes or vapes out there?

Kukura continues with the solutions:

“Companies like TerraCycle provide Zero Waste Boxes for people to take matters into their own hands and recycle e-cigarettes at their home or office. TerraCycle collects discarded e-cigarettes using purchasable waste boxes, ranging from $47 for an individual pouch to $1,640 for a much larger pallet, typically used by several people over time. The user, or users then ship the disposed e-cigarettes to the company, and the collected waste is mechanically or manually separated into metals and plastics and later melted to be recycled. 

“Refilling is also easier than most people think: most pens with refillable tanks have a filler hole, which you can transfer additional oil into using a dropper. There are several varieties on the market, from the Cora Vaporizer, which features a magnetically attached refillable tank, to the Vaporite Amber L, which also has a refillable tank with customizable coil options. Best of all, these pens mean fewer trips to the dispensary for you, and fewer vape cartridges going into the landfill.”

  • Is there anything being done to combat the waste issue?

The Sunset Bill in Colorado would accomplish a step towards cannabis recycling.

Meanwhile back in Florida, we have trash cans.

Trashcan filled with product bags directly outside the door at Trulieve dispensary, Pensacola, Florida on N. Davis Highway

Trash can filled with product bags directly outside the door at Trulieve dispensary, Pensacola, Florida on N. Davis Highway

  • What else can I do in the meantime?

Having sustainability in mind when choosing your cannabis products is the most immediate step users can take to combat the issue. If you’re a user with the option and money to choose one more sustainable cannabis product over another brand, then absolutely make that greener choice when you can.

If you haven’t done so yet, as an intelligent, suave cannabis purchaser and consumer, please consider switching to a more eco-friendly delivery method than vaping. Think about the simple fact that if nothing else, flower can be composted. Homemade and unpackaged personal edibles disappear upon ingestion and liver first-pass— that is when and if edibles become available for sale later this spring in Florida.

Our Florida OMMU recently announced that edibles would be available as soon as March 16 2020. We’ll see what actually transpires on this front and I’ll keep you posted.

  • What about sustainability in the U.S. cannabis industry has changed between 2017-2020?

Not much has changed, that’s for sure. Cannabis Dispensary’s October 2019 Vape Recycling Has Become a Challenge for the Cannabis Industry asks the big question:

Wondering how to navigate vape-related recycling? You’re not alone. Even in this environmentally conscious industry, helping customers recycle vape cartridges, batteries and disposables isn’t as easy as it could be. But don’t despair. A look into recycling options and realities can help your dispensary become part of the recycling solution.”

Firstly, Dosist’s unique “dose pens” are designed differently than strain-based vape pens in that “as many of the components as possible can be fully recycled, reused or repurposed,” according to its website.

Secondly, the company also offers a rewards-based recycling program in conjunction with Gaiaca, encouraging customers to return a used dose pen for a $5 discount on their next pen.

*This program can not be offered to consumers in Florida.

  • What Types of Vape Recycling Programs Has the Industry Seen?

In the past, there have been multiple sustainability and recycling programs at work in the cannabis industry, such as paid returns for empties, pickup, hazardous waste roundups, in-store disposal mailing envelopes, reward programs, and other incentives.

The most common, albeit infeasible, approach has been simple collection boxes at local cannabis retailers. But little to no success or progress has been made for mandatory state-sanctioned cannabis collection or recycling participation.

EXTRA: How (and Where) to Recycle Cannabis Containers & Old Vape Pens

  • Let the Community Cannabis Collection, or C³, start today.

Vape Recycling–8 Steps For You:

  1. Know your state regulations
  2. Talk with vape vendors
  3. Know your product lines
  4. Educate your staff
  5. Reach out to recycling and hazardous waste agencies
  6. Help consumers and recyclers connect
  7. Educate and encourage customers
  8. Get involved

Each state has its own recycling regulations, so if you are a cannabis consumer, it would be helpful to know (a) what your state provides for cannabis end user recycling and (b) what it requires of legal medical cannabis companies and statewide dispensaries, if anything, as far as recycling-renewable compliance.

As for Florida, the state does not provide for any type of cannabis container collection, recycling, or renewability in its medical cannabis program’s regulatory framework.

And as an end-user of legal medical cannabis in this state, I can attest to the fact that there is absolutely NO availability of recycling for vape cartridges, used empty containers, packaging, or batteries in most U.S. states.

NO collection boxes for me

+ NO recycling compliance framework requirement for cannabis companies or for local dispensaries

+ NO action at the state or corporate levels

= NO action by individual cannabis consumers.

This sad, massive cannabis waste problem must change, sooner rather than later.

For further cannabis sustainability reading:

  1. Cannabis Blogroll》published by me in Cannabis Law Report.:
  2. Growing》 What Is ‘Clean Green Certified’ Cannabis?
  3. Lifestyle》 This Cannabis Subreddit Is Cleaning Up the Earth
  4. Lifestyle》 An old-school plan to fight plastic pollution gathers steam
  5. National》 Is a World Without Trash Possible?
  6. Industry》 5 Ways to Love Earth as Much as You Love Cannabis
  7. Industry》 DOWNLOAD》FREE Dispensary Marketing E-Book

For further cannabis sustainability Resources:

Recycling + Sustainability 

  1. National Association of Cannabis Businesses: National Standards
  2. GCP —  Responsible Cannabis Framework
  3. GCP — Responsible Framework Fact Sheet
  4. The Sustainability Times
  5. E-Waste
  6. Earth911
  7. Recycling laws MAP
  8. Recycling LOCATOR
  9. Call2Recycle
  10. The Opportunities of Solar Panel Recycling
  11. The Solar Panel’s Life After Death
  12. Energizer Holdings Inc. Sustainability Pledge
  13. How to Recycle Batteries
  14. Where to Recycle Batteries
  15. Battery Recycling of America: Battery Recycling Process
  16. EZ On The Earth: Small Battery Recycling
  17. Pre-filled Oil Vape Cartridges
  18. The problem with coffee pods — eco-friendly alternatives
  19. Hempcrete Hasn’t Been Fireproof…Until Now
  20. Florida- Escambia County Household Hazardous Waste
  21. An Old-School Plan to Fight Plastic Pollution Gathers Steam
  22. Is a World Without Trash Possible?
  23. Nike reveals Space Hippie — sustainable sneakers made from waste
  24. Modern Firniture Collection Byounghwi Jeon, founder of Studio Pesi, repurposes manufacturing waste
  25. Portugal designer João Leão created PET MINI — an electric skateboard made out of plastic waste
  26. Inhabitat— RECYCLED MATERIALS
  27. How to properly and safely dispose of 10 common items in your home, i.e. batteries
  28. SLIPPY – Reusable Drink Cozy
  29. Cannabis Companies Struggle To Become More Sustainable — January 2019
  30. Sustainability in Cannabis — January 2020
  31. The Cannabis Sustainability Inquiry: Could Marijuana And Hemp Offer The Solution To The World’s Toughest Environmental, Social, And Economic Problems? — August 2019
  32. The Environmental Downside of Cannabis Cultivation — June 2019
  33. Growing Cannabis With Sustainable Practices — January 2019
  34. Future Cannabis Industry Leaders Will Focus on Sustainability and Social Impact — February 2020
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