When you think about sustainable cannabis packaging, what may come to mind is a glass jar, metal tin, or box or paper bag. After all, these are widely recyclable if not reused. But what you may not know, is that there is a reusable and recyclable package that uses far less energy to produce, emits fewer greenhouse gasses in shipping and storage, and can be overall better for the environment. What is this sustainable superhero? Surprise! It is a pouch.

Pouches lead the way for sustainable packaging! Pouches are primarily plastic and most often a combination of plastics that are not recyclable. Although plastic has become a dirty word in many sustainability circles, the problem with the recent plastic reputation is that it is based on narrow reports that lead to misinformation about what is sustainable packaging. The truth? Flexible plastics are less harmful to the environment in production, transportation, and even disposal when compared to any jar, can, or box.

Disposal is the tricky part… No matter what you put into a landfill, it does not degrade without emitting harmful greenhouse gasses. But with most of our waste, including “recyclables,” going to a landfill, what do we do?

The Environmental Protection Agency developed the Sustainable Materials Management: Non-Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Hierarchy to guide companies and consumers through the best options to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of waste. What is most preferred? The answer is part materials and part methods. Yes, we need more than 1 scale to tip in the battle for eco-friendly packaging.

Let’s look at these methods. First, we need to reduce what we take at the source. Whether the package material (plastic pouches included) relies on non-renewable or renewable resources, the material can be downgauged or package sized smaller. We also need to reuse our packaging. This was actually the original intention of the first plastic bag, but that is not an easy practice for consumers, and can often be impractical when things like tamper evidence are needed. And don’t forget to consider the distance, weight in density, and volume of space this packaging needs to travel, and the resources those needs consume along the way

Second, choose a package that can be recycled or composted by your customers. Get engaged in how your customers will dispose of your packaging because today’s market and infrastructure are still evolving to close the loop and keep those items out of landfills. You can do your part by including recycled content into your daily demands, teaching your customers how to recycle or compost properly, and even taking collections of your customer packaging. Pouches can be sustainably produced as a recyclable or a compostable package.

If you are serious about sustainable packaging, take some time to learn about pouches and landfill diversion. Surprising as it may seem, when it comes to sustainable packaging, pouches are likely to be the most environmentally responsible choice for your cannabis products.

Sources:

American Chemistry Council: A Study of Packaging Efficiency As It Relates to Waste Prevention

Environmental Protection Agency: Sustainable Materials Management: Non-Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Hierarchy

https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials#R&Ctrends

https://www.epa.gov/gmi/importance-methane

https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/birth-ban-history-plastic-shopping-bag