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How to move toward sustainable cannabis packaging

In 2022, the New York Cannabis Control Board released its proposed cannabis packaging regulations. These include an environmental sustainability program that requires cannabis operators to either:

  • In 2022, the New York Cannabis Control Board released its proposed cannabis packaging regulations. These include an environmental sustainability program that requires cannabis operators to either:
  • Develop processes for collecting reusable cannabis packaging components
    Use nonplastic, compostable, or recyclable materials, or packaging materials that have at least 25% post-consumer recycled content

In more mature markets in the United States, cannabis operators already took it upon themselves to work toward more sustainable packaging. You can follow suit by following these four tips. 

1. Create cannabis packaging reuse or recycling initiatives

 

Encourage consumers to return their used cannabis packaging so that your company can reuse it or dispose of it properly. You can offer incentives such as discounts or loyalty points to entice customers to participate in your recycling programs.

Here are some similar ongoing initiatives you can take inspiration from: 

  • The Canadian cannabis brand Tweed launched a Cannabis Packaging Recycling Program in 2018. Under this program, consumers can drop off their used cannabis packaging — such as outer and inner plastic packaging, tubes, tins, plastic bottles and caps, and flexible plastic bags — at participating Tweed retail locations. These plastics are turned into plastic pellets and precious metals, which are used to create park benches and picnic tables, among other things. 
  • In 2020, Colorado started a take-back program for cannabis packaging, vape cartridges, and other cannabis product-related plastics. 
  • Trulieve introduced its TruRecycle program in Florida in October 2021. The program allows consumers to return select container types to any Trulieve dispensary location.

2. Streamline or rethink your cannabis packaging design

Did you know the average cannabis product has packaging that’s four to 30 times heavier than its contents

You can work toward changing this by eliminating unnecessary packaging. Use only as much material needed to protect and secure products, and avoid wrapping products in extra layers of plastic or paper when shipping them. For instance, if you’re using a box to ship an item, skip the shrink wrap to prevent adding more plastic wrapping to your package.

Also, consider using a single type of material for your packaging instead of multiple materials. For example, to package cannabis vape cartridges, you can use mylar bags (made of polyester film) instead of the usual thermoplastic trays (usually made of polystyrene or polyethylene) inserted in a cardboard box. Plus, mylar bags take up less space, have child-resistant and tamper-evident features, and are less expensive per unit than the usual packaging. 

Another packaging option to consider is recyclable plastic tubes that have a child-resistant pop-top mechanism. The tube can be decorated with a pressure-sensitive label, which consumers can remove if they opt to recycle the tube. 

3. Swap out plastic

 

Avoid using plastic in your packaging since it’s not the most sustainable option out there. While some plastics can technically be recycled, the plastic packaging has to be larger than a small yogurt cup for it to be accepted by recycling centers. Most cannabis plastic lids and containers are too small, so they’ll likely just end up in landfills. 

This is why it’s best to consider biodegradable and sustainable materials like glass, bamboo, and paper. Using a blend of corrugated cardboard and decorative paperboard offers a sturdy and visually appealing packaging material. 

You can also look into compostable packaging materials like post-consumer recycled paper and tree-free alternatives, such as hemp, cotton, and sugarcane bagasse. Try to look for packaging materials that are home-compostable rather than industrial-compostable certified so consumers can easily put the packaging in their backyard compost piles or bins. The latter option, in contrast, would require them to take the packaging to specific centers — which are currently limited in the US — that can handle that kind of composting. 

Take note that these alternative packaging materials are often more expensive than single-use plastics. For example, a compostable mylar bag costs 24 cents, while a regular mylar bag costs 4 cents. This means you’ll need to get creative with your packaging design to accommodate the extra cost.

4. Vet your

 

Make sure your packaging partners also have sustainable practices. You can ask them about their sourcing, production, and manufacturing processes to determine if they are environmentally friendly. Check if they have received sustainability certifications from groups like the Forest Stewardship Council, an organization that verifies sustainable sourcing. 

Your chosen vendors should have conducted or are conducting extensive research on sustainable packaging. This way, you can ensure that their packaging will work for your specific cannabis product, whether it be a capsule, lozenge, cream, balm, dermal patches, oral spray, edible, or dried buds.

For example, to maintain the quality of a cannabis flower, the packaging should be 100% watertight and airtight to prevent the flower from drying out. Failing to source the right sustainable packaging materials will negatively impact your cannabis product’s shelf life. Poor packaging materials may not be able to protect your product from pests, mold growth, contamination, or improper handling. 

Conclusion

By following these four tips, you can ensure that your cannabis packaging is not only compliant with regulations but also more sustainable. With a bit of effort, you can help make the cannabis industry more eco-friendly. 

The great news is that shifting to more sustainable packaging can also improve your bottom line and brand reputation. Globally, 85% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. To appeal to these consumers and market your company as a socially conscious brand, you should highlight your use of sustainable packaging materials. You can include sustainability messaging on your packaging, such as “This packaging is derived from post-consumer recycled paper” or “Packaging made from hemp.”

If you need help with sourcing packaging solutions or applying product labels, you can rely on Pro-Motion Industries. Talk to one of our experts today at 856-809-0040.  

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