By Melissa Kahn - Associate Director | MoCannTrade
The Cannabis industry continues to grow and develop, which uniquely positions an opportunity to approach sustainability for cannabis product packaging. “Judith Enck, a former regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said, the best time for a nascent industry to bake in sustainability principles is when it’s just getting established—and for legalized cannabis sales, she added, that means now [Marijuana Moment].” Packaging is one area that can easily be improved upon to reduce environmental impact.
The cannabis industry is plagued with single-use plastics that have a negative impact on our environment. This includes product packaging waste not only from consumers, but also testing labs and changes to rules and regulations that create unnecessary waste. A CBC report found that, “for every gram of cannabis sold legally, up to 70 grams of plastic waste was generated.”
There is a wide array of cannabis product packaging types and options available in today's market. Whether or not the price of sustainable packaging is greater just depends on the packaging material. A great example from CitizenSustainble, highlights two different scenarios that showcase the complexity of cost comparison for sustainable options. The first example is the price to produce a plastic bag is one cent compared to the cost to produce a paper bag is four cents. Paper is the more expensive, but eco-friendly option than plastic. But, plastic containers for example are more expensive than cardboard because they are made of thicker, more heavy duty plastic. Cardboard boxes can usually be recycled curbside, but not all plastic boxes can be, depending on the type of plastic they’re made of. With popular packaging and shipping material company Uline, one 10.1 × 7.8 × 6.5″ plastic shipping tote costs around $16. But a 10 × 8 × 6″ cardboard box from the same company costs around $0.60. That means that you can get 26 cardboard boxes for the same price as one plastic tote.
Companies like Wyld are implementing biodegradable packaging, while Robust here in Missouri are utilizing packaging made from recycled materials that can be recycled too. Today companies have many options to replace single use plastics with options that are recyclable, biodegradable, made from recycled materials, ocean safe, and reusable. Suppliers are innovating with child resistant paper-based options while others are using plant-based materials to replace traditionally mylar bags. Beyond just choosing sustainable packaging options, this is a great marketing opportunity too. Including the certifications on your packaging that will draw eco-conscious consumers to your products.
Consumer preferences are shifting and sustainability is a huge area of opportunity. “According to Statista, in 2021 a survey revealed that 52% of online shoppers in the UK and US wished that brands would make products with less packaging. 36% said that they want brands to be more transparent about their sustainability practices, and 28% of people said they appreciated brands who partnered with local environmental groups.” In other CPG markets big brands shift to sustainable packaging and for a good reason. Consumers prefer companies who prioritize reducing environmental impact and the cannabis industry is no different. Many operators in the industry believe the potential increased cost of eco-friendly packaging will be offset by consumer demand and recent research indicates that many Millenials are openly making purchase decisions based on a company’s commitment to social causes.
Reusable packaging, innovations in recycling, and eco-friendly packaging options are all trends that we’ll continue to watch as an industry. Existing companies in the US and Canada are already working diligently to find solutions that could make their way into our markets locally sooner rather than later.