How to recycle cannabis packaging in Canada

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When legal cannabis debuted in Canada last year, some users were shocked by the amount of packaging required to deliver mere grams of Kush. Naturally, where this packaging ends up after being delivered—be that to a retail location, provincial retailer or customer—became a bit of a head-scratcher for many people.

Thankfully, licensed producers (LPs) have been considering the materials used to package product long before consumers began buying it (legally) in October. And with plastic-free initiatives springing up across the country—Montreal and Victoria have banned single-use plastic bags, IKEA is phasing out single-use plastic globally by 2020 and A&W Canada has nixed straws in all of its burger joints across the country—it’s no wonder players big and small who’ve entered Canada’s new legal cannabis industry are trying to take an eco-conscious approach.

Garbage in, garbage out?

Currently, most Canadian municipalities, though not all, allow people to put plastic cannabis packaging into the recycling bin.

For users in areas that don’t accept cannabis containers in the recycling program—to be sure, check with your local government—there is another way.

Tweed, part of Canopy Growth Corporation, has launched a nation-wide recycling program for used cannabis packaging, a first-ever in Canada. The initiative is in partnership with TerraCycle, a Toronto-based company that gives new life to old plastics.

Tweed collects all cannabis packaging—including tins, plastic bottles, joint tubes and plastic caps, even the flexible plastic bags—as long as these were legally purchased from an LP. So, if you can’t recycle in your city, you can drop it off at a company shop, partner store or sign up online to receive a complimentary shipping labeland mail it in to be recycled. The used packaging is then cleaned and melted into pellets that can be remoulded into new plastic products.

“Packaging is a huge priority for LPs and Canada has some of the strictest regulations in the world when it comes to cannabis packaging,” says Nicholas Kovacevich, CEO of KushCo Holdings, Inc. “We pride ourselves in helping our Canadian customers navigate this complex regulatory landscape,” Kovacevich says.

KushCo is a U.S.-based company that provides packaging solutions to LPs across North America. Those strict regulations Kovacevich refers to are found in the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) guide that all Canadian LPs must follow.

In Canada, cannabis must be packaged in materials of a solid, opaque colour (nothing fluorescent, reflective or metallic) that bare the red and white THC cannabis leaf symbol and the standard health warning. The containers also must be tamper-evident and child-resistant.

Tin, polypropylene and glass among popular materials

“Our packaging was designed with two goals in mind: first, to create cannabis-specific packaging that will stand up to the rigours of transit, and second, something fully recyclable,” notes information from Tweed emailed to The GrowthOp. Most of the company’s packaging is made from tin with a small amount of plastic. The purpose of the tin, in addition to being recyclable, is to protect the bud while in transit; the government-mandated child-proofing is what adds the extra plastic material in most cases, the email adds.

“Polypropylene and glass are two of the most popular materials for our customers in Canada,” says Kovacevich. “We’ve also seen greater demand for packaging that’s naturally sourced, biodegradable and recyclable. Biodegradable and compostable plastics, boxes, bags, tubes and exit bags, to name a few. At KushCo, we want to lead the way when it comes to sustainability, as it’s of paramount importance to our business and our customers,” he adds.

Last month, KushCo announced a new partnership with SunGrown Packaging, a U.S.-based provider of sustainable, customized packaging solutions specifically for the cannabis industry.

“We have also announced our partnership with IEKO Corporation earlier this year to bring to market a line of biodegradable and compostable plastics,” Kovacevich reports.

Ultimately, however, it’s up to the shopper to keep recyclable cannabis packaging out of the landfill. And now that you know there’s always a way to recycle it, that should be easy, right?

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