A recent article from National Geographic provided a rather unpleasant wake-up call regarding the amount of plastics and the rate at which they are flowing into our oceans. Just five years ago, in 2015, researchers estimated that nearly 8.8 million tons of plastics flow into the ocean each year. However, recent estimates paint a much more dismal picture.
A study published by an international team of scientists suggests that we’ll see that number rise to between 22 to 58 million tons annually over the next ten years. Trying to provide a visualization for that number, Jenna Jambeck, an Engineering professor from the University of Georgia, stated in the article, “We’re getting into the realm of what’s incomprehensible,” she says. “How about a football stadium filled with plastic every day? Or enough plastic to cover Rhode Island or the country of Luxembourg ankle-deep?”
Horrifically, these calculations were made based on government intervention and significant industry commitments for more sustainable packaging solutions. Without action, the researchers believe humans will contribute 99 million tons of plastic to the growing problem.
Cannabis Packaging Conundrum
Unfortunately, the cannabis industry is a part of the problem contributing more than a billion plastic waste units each year. With legalization, regulatory requirements mean that the days of selling marijuana in plastic sandwich bags are gone. Today, commercial cannabis providers are held to stringent rules regarding how their products are packaged and sold.
From state to state, many cannabis regulations can vary wildly, except in child-safe packaging requirements. As a potentially hazardous substance for children, cannabis companies must adhere to federal guidelines set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In fact, this is one of the only interstate regulations for all cannabis businesses across the country.
These regulations include:
- Compliant with ASTM or compliant with ASTM D3475-17
- Compliant with the CPSC or compliant with PPPA
- Compliant with 16 CFR 1700 or compliant with 16 CFR 1700.20
- Designed to be significantly difficult for children under five years old to open and not difficult for functioning adults to open
Safe vs. Excessive
While few will argue the fact that cannabis packaging should be child-resistant, these rules typically mean increased use of plastics. However, studies have shown that cannabis packaging is often excessive, with just one gram of cannabis contained in up to 70 grams of packaging. Other examples include:
- One gram of wax wrapped in 30 grams of packaging
- One-quarter of flower encased in a 29-gram bottle
- One gram of flower sold in a 4-gram Mylar bag
Obviously, there’s room for improvement in product weight to package weight ratio, although some type of plastic packaging will always be necessary due to safety restrictions.
Although other proposed solutions include packaging made from ocean plastics or hemp-based resins, replace one plastic package for a different one, a solution introduced by Marijuana Packaging considers what happens after the package is discarded.
The Biodegradable Packaging Solution
With such an epic problem in a blossoming industry, the number of plastics discarded by consumers will only increase. As such, the race is on to find an appropriate, cost-effective solution. Biodegradable packaging is one opportunity not to be overlooked.
He continued, “Our Biodegradable Joint Tubes are only one, of a full line of biodegradable options that we are introducing over the next 6 months, in hopes of moving our industry a step closer to greener alternatives.”
In a recent announcement, Marijuana Packaging hopes to be a part of the solution with the first-ever line of biodegradable joint tubes designed to reduce the amount of cannabis plastics in the environment significantly. Eco-friendly and sustainable, these fully child-resistant tubes look and function just like standard joint tubes today. However, these tubes degrade up to 95% in just 241 days.
Made in the US, from bio-blend resins comprised of plant-based polymers and recyclable polypropylene, these pre-roll tubes reduce carbon emissions from the moment they are manufactured until they are thrown out. A representative from NuPlastiq stated, “These BioPolymers are 100% natural, renewably resourced, and plant-based, which has created a cost-effective solution for alternative packaging.”
While biodegradable pre-roll tubes may seem like a small step forward, this concept represents a giant leap towards more environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging solutions for the eco-conscious cannabis industry.