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New Packaging Buyback Program at a Canadian Cannabis Dispensary

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It’s no secret—the cannabis industry is a contributor to pollution, not unlike most other industries. Between the trash accumulation of packaging and carbon footprint left by indoor grows, now is the time to begin rethinking how we go about selling this all-natural product.

An independently-owned cannabis dispensary in St Catharines, Ontario in Canada believes they have taken one step in that direction. It was one of ten of the first legal cannabis stores to open in Ontario in April 2019. It is family-owned and has no external investment or influence in the business.

The Niagara Herbalist has recently begun giving customers store credit when they return empty cannabis packages. This approach is similar to programs that offer money for alcohol containers or a return on other beverage receptacles.

The program launched on November 15 in hopes to reroute waste from landfills to be used again in the future.

Store credits depend on the type of container that’s returned. For example, glass jars or bottles are granted 10 Canadian cents (about eight U.S. cents) whereas plastic jars and other recyclable packaging is given CA$0.05.

As of this time, vape cartridges and batteries will not be incorporated into the program.

This isn’t the first time a cannabis company has done their part in reducing the waste their products produce. Canopy Growth and TerraCycle also have recycling programs which were launched in 2019.

However, Niagara Herbalists has officially become the first cannabis store (rather than brand) to offer financial compensation for recyclable packaging. They worked alongside Niagara College’s Environmental Management Assessment program for the last year and a half to develop the foundation for this project.

Cannabis isn’t the only industry to realize the waste brought about by its packaging and products. Currently, cigarette companies also offer a recycling program for their cigarette butts which can be melted into a hard plastic and remodeled into new recyclable material, such as plastic pallets.

Problems with Cannabis Packaging

If you live in a metropolitan area where recreational cannabis is legalized, it’s likely littered cannabis packaging along with other items used for consumption (i.e. cigarillo packagings) are a common site. Beyond the fact that many just don’t have an environmental concern when it comes to cannabis consumption, another difficulty is that not all packaging can be recycled.

Most notably, there are a number of plastics which can’t be reused. Most notably, plastic packaging that has a childproof design (which is required by law) contains mylar which isn’t recyclable.

As you can imagine, most customers aren’t aware of this and still throw such packaging in the recycle bin. By the time it reaches a sorting facility, much of the material is eventually thrown away—only wasting time, effort, and money in recycling programs.

When a company or store takes the recycling process under their own belt, they have the opportunity to educate customers on what can and cannot be recycled. Furthermore, they’re offering their community the opportunity to take care of a problem most landfills and recycling facilities don’t want to deal with—re-sorting cannabis packaging.

Furthermore, customers who do take the extra steps in educating themselves and recycling their packaging are rewarded through the buyback program. Therefore, there is much incentive for everyone to do their part in this much larger dilemma.

What Niagara Herbalists has done for their community may not seem like much of a dent in the ever-growing environmental problem. However, if everyone took on a role as such, the environment wouldn’t be facing nearly as daunting a problem.

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