Cannabis has a waste problem. How to fight it.


Californian company CannaCraft is thinking about plastics in a new way.

July 27, 2021 4 min reading time

The opinions of entrepreneurs’ contributors are their own.

As billionaires fly into space in search of habitable planets, there are other business leaders doing their part to ensure that the planet we have is either burned up or buried under all the junk we produce. CannaCraft, a community-based cannabis company based in Sonoma County, is committed to addressing the problem of plastic packaging waste.

I spoke to Tiffany Devitt, Chief of Government and Consumer Affairs at CannaCraft to get a feel for what they are doing to alleviate the problem and help us people on earth do the right thing.

How bad is the plastic packaging waste problem in the cannabis industry?

It’s hard to put an exact figure, but when you consider that the cannabis market had sales of over $ 16 billion in 2020, it’s clear that many packaged products are manufactured and consumed. California saw an increase in plastic packaging in 2018 when adult use regulations went into effect. Most of the time, these were sensible changes such as clear labeling and warning notices as well as child-resistant packaging for edibles, capsules, tinctures or other products that could easily be mixed up or consumed by a child. But others didn’t make sense, like the child-resistant packaging of vape cartridges, which are inherently child-resistant. Instead of adding an unnecessary 3-inch plastic tube to the more than 1 million cartridges CannaCraft sells each year (enough to travel about 60 miles or the distance from our Santa Rosa facility to San Francisco), we went through the process of to our child-resistant cartridges according to the requirements of the Poisoning Packaging Act.

On balance, is the cannabis industry part of the problem or part of the solution?

Compared to other large consumer goods, cannabis is less wasteful because of our physical barriers. All of our business is conducted within state lines, so we don’t need additional plastic packaging to protect the products that make the long journey from an international location to a distributor on the east coast of California.

The products we make in our factory go across the street to our distribution center when completed and are then driven to retailers who sell them locally. Although the industry is changing, the spirit of the cannabis community has always valued natural and sustainable solutions. Flashy or unnecessary plastic packaging for display purposes can be a deterrent for both retailers looking to optimize shelf space and consumers looking to make responsible purchasing decisions.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Tiffany Devitt. Photo courtesy of CannaCraft

You mention child-resistant packaging – is that a persistent problem?

Kind of, but CR requirements aren’t the only problem. Another problem is that there isn’t a lot of biodegradable, child-resistant packaging out there. This is a topic that extends beyond the cannabis industry. Equally important, what is available is usually very expensive. Given the other economic pressures the industry is under – excessive taxes, high regulatory costs, and artificially constrained markets – the cost of sustainable CR packaging is prohibitive for most in our industry

What are the goals of your partnership with Resynergi?

We originally planned to collect plastic from our facilities and major cannabis events. Using Resynergi’s proprietary oil conversion system, we then turned this plastic waste into fuel for our distribution vehicles. But we heard from customers and dealers who also wanted to participate. Against this background, we recently started an in-store campaign with a pharmacy partner in April to collect plastic packaging from customers at the pharmacy for a discount. In one store, we had nearly 2,500 customers trading in plastic cannabis packaging for a total of 232 pounds of waste. This was a great success for our pilot program and we are now expanding this program to 10 more pharmacies.

What kind of fuel can waste be converted into?

Resynergi traditionally uses non-recyclable plastics and converts them into highly profitable fuels and chemical products, with the only plastic by-products being water and CO2. Their clean fuel is an alternative to refined oil products, yet their process causes 60% less greenhouse gas emissions for diesel compared to the extraction and refining of fossil fuels.

What steps can other cannabis companies take to do their part?

Promote and facilitate recycling. Advocate for regulatory changes that reduce waste and support the industry’s ability to afford sustainable packaging. And use as little packaging material as necessary, even if this reduces the “footprint” of your products on the shelf. In other words, prioritize environmental considerations over short-term marketing gains.