Plastic is in everything: our clothing, cars—it’s even in the food chain. We rely on plastic to help shape the planet we call home. But you’re living in a fantasy world if you don’t know that plastic is also a major cause of our planet’s immense pollution fandango.
It might, then, be the world’s biggest coincidence that marijuana is just now experiencing widespread legalization, because the plant and plastics, though vastly different, are cosmically intertwined. And, unfortunately, the cannabis industry is contributing to the plastic problem. The amount of single-use plastics utilized in cannabis is appalling— from plastic eighth jars to the opaque plastic carry-out bags—and it’s all going into landfills and the ocean.
But the nascent marijuana industry is in a unique position because it also has the potential to become part of the solution.
The majority of the people who use THC might consider themselves to be “pro-planet.” You know—the reduce, recycle, reuse-type; hippies, folks who care about the world they live in. Yet, with the legalization of cannabis, dispensaries have popped up by the dozens, adding pounds of plastic to the colossal-sized pollution issue that’s already mid-dumpster fire.
And it’s all because plastic is cheap. For the multitude of cannabis start-ups struggling to acquire funding, using plastic is the answer to packaging, shipping and production costs. Vape pens, cartridges, product packaging, CBD oil containers, joint tubes, bongs, labeling and stickers, envelopes and shipping packages, edibles wrappers, and bubble wrap are just a few of the ways plastic is used (read: overused) in the cannabis industry.
Digging deeper, plastics are made from fossil fuels—they’re petroleum based. Plastic’s best feature (it’s durability) is a major detriment to the health of our planet. It’s so incredibly sturdy that most plastics take 600 years or more to biodegrade. To put that into perspective, the plastic of today will still exist in our children’s children’s children’s children’s lifetimes—and even longer than that.
There’s an uninhabited island in the South Pacific with 38 million pieces of plastic waste on it. It’s probably not on the top of your list of dream vacation destinations. It won’t be on your great-great-great-grandkids lists of places to visit, either. And if the cannabis industry doesn’t shift the way it uses plastic, the world we leave behind for future generations is going to be trashed.
Thankfully, a recent interest in bioplastics made from corn, cellulose, and palm fruit is on the rise. It has to be—we’re facing a massive pollution crisis that’s only getting worse. Among the renewable plant materials being explored and used to make plastic is—you guessed it: hemp.
So why, then, is the cannabis industry (particularly manufacturers, but also the entire supply chain) using so much plastic when it can literally be packaged with, shipped in, and smoked out of hemp?
For scope, let’s take a look at some scary numbers. (If you’re looking for a Halloween costume, consider one of the following statistics.)
In 2015, a study conducted at University of California, Santa Barbara stated that eight million metric tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean annually and ends up killing as many as 1.5 million sea creatures. Furthermore, 91 percent of plastic is not recycled.