The cannabis industry has a major plastic problem.
According to the non-profit Plastic Oceans International, the world produces 300 million tons of plastic every year. Half of that — 150 million tons — is for single-use purposes. While these issues clearly extend far beyond the reaches of the cannabis industry, state packaging regulations have forced many business owners to seek out the cheapest options in order to keep the lights on.
Take, for instance, a standard disposable vaporizer pen. Beyond the materials of the pen itself, California state law requires that the product arrive to the dispensary in child-proof packaging. At that point, it is then purchased, where it is placed into another child-proof bag. That’s a whole lot of plastic for 200 puffs. According to the firm BDS Analytics, sales in California for disposable vape pens nearly doubled from $3.4 million to $6.42 million between January and March of 2018.
That’s a huge amount of plastic being discarded every day in the weed world — and it’s only getting worse.
“It’s disturbing,” says Steve D’Angelo, founder of the famed dispensary Harborside and a major figure in the industry. “It’s repugnant to the values that cannabis teaches us.”
The crux of the issue lies with the law.
California’s regulations regarding packaging stipulate that “all cannabis and cannabis products be sold in child-resistant packaging.” That means plastic tubes for pre-rolls and additional protective packaging for items like edibles, vape cartridges, and flower.