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An Ocean-Friendly Approach to Cannabis Packaging

February 14, 2019
(courtesy of Sana Packaging)
With cannabis legalization working its way across the country, more and more cannabis products are being produced and sold. With the increase in sales comes a growing concern about the waste generated from packaging materials and how to make this part of the burgeoning industry more sustainable.

It’s estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic materials make it into the ocean annually according to a 2015 study published in Science. Due to regulations and costs, cannabis packaging has to be childproof and affordable leading processors to use heavy duty plastics, many of which can’t be recycled. Some brands in the industry have responded by using recyclable materials such as glass, cardboard, cork, and hemp-based plastics.

A new company, Sana Packaging, has created a line of packaging for cannabis products using plastic removed from the ocean. The project is the first of its kind in the cannabis industry and could help solve the question of how to keep cannabis packaging sustainable, while also protecting the ocean.


How Can Cannabis Retailers Implement Sustainable Practices?

A Change Is Needed

Cannabis has long inspired a connection with the environment. Many consumers find themselves wanting to slow down, work in the garden, go for a hike, or connect with nature in some other way.

Cannabis inspires an awareness of our impact on the planet, and it makes sense that the industry as a whole should be concerned with how it affects the ecosystem. Legalization has come quickly and the excitement of it has left some of these environmental considerations with cannabis behind.

Currently, six of the ten states with recreational cannabis have coastal boundaries, putting cannabis packaging at a higher risk of making its way into our oceans. Sana Packaging’s business model aims to inspire both producers and consumers to realize that there is a more sustainable way to do business.


Build, Test, Repeat: Developing Sustainable, Compliant Cannabis Packaging

The Sustainable Business Model

Sana has already been facing the packaging crisis head-on as one of the first companies to produce plant-based packaging for cannabis. With this new project, they’ve teamed up with business partner Oceanworks to fight against ocean plastics.

Oceanworks has been removing and recycling plastic from the ocean since 2016, with the long-term goal of a having a plastic-free ocean. They work as the middleman between collectors and recyclers and businesses that use the plastic to create a product. They are able to incentivize the removal of plastics from the ocean while making a resource available to businesses that wish to help the environment.

Oceanworks also traces the origins of the plastics to create a narrative and educate consumers on where the plastic for their cannabis comes from.

The story of the plastic used by Sana begins in Haiti, where local Haitians are paid by weight for various types of plastic pulled out of beaches, streams, and the ocean. Sana will be using HDPE plastic, which generally comes from laundry detergent packaging and milk jugs.

Workers bring the plastic to recycling centers where it is melted down and turned into pellets. The pellets are shipped to Sana’s facilities and used to create their new containers for cannabis, which ideally will continue to be recycled in the future and stay out of our oceans.


Sustainable Cannabis Packaging: How It’s Made and Why It Matters

According to Tim Lewin, Account Manager at Oceanworks, there is no shortage of plastics that need to be pulled from our oceans, and with an economic incentive, there are workers eager to earn a living.

“It is unfortunate for the environment there is so much plastic to collect, however, we have found workers are being paid a very liveable wage and this has been a boost to the local economy,” says Lewin.

Finding a Voice

Looking out for the environment and being a conscious consumers extends to all products and facets of life, whether it be food, clothing, transportation, or cannabis.

The cannabis industry is in its infancy, and now is the time to start thinking about how it will impact the environment and how to make it sustainable. It will continue to grow and thrive and it’s better to have sustainable models in place before the industry gets too big and more difficult to change.

“I think the biggest thing cannabis consumers can do is make their voices heard. Consumers absolutely have the power to drive change in the marketplace.”
James Eichner, co-founder and CSO of Sana Packaging

James Eichner, co-founder and CSO of Sana Packaging, encourages consumers to get involved. “I think the biggest thing cannabis consumers can do is make their voices heard,” he said. “Consumers absolutely have the power to drive change in the marketplace. Every time you go to a dispensary, talk to the budtenders about packaging waste. Reach out to your favorite brands and let them know what you think about their packaging. Let everyone know you’re sick of cannabis packaging waste and let everyone know that solutions exist.”

It’s important to remember that budtenders can answer any question about the cannabis you are buying, even about how it’s packaged. Being a conscious consumer can also extend to cannabis consumption. Movements such as the #whatsinmyweed campaign urge consumers to empower themselves when they walk into a store to purchase cannabis.

Do you know of any environmentally friendly cannabis products? Leave a comment below to help lower the impact that the cannabis industry has on the environment.

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

View Trevor Hennings's articles


    MM Green Packaging Solutions is a sustainable packaging company based out of Santa Cruz, California with patented and proprietary packages for all cannabis, CBD and hemp products. Everything they create is ocean safe and biodegradable using materials such as plant based pulp, post-consumer waste and recycled stocks.They are revolutionary in their efforts to prevent plastic from entering the packaging cycle. #keepcannabisgreen

  • rckoegel

    So, I didn’t read the whole article, and it might have said, but how are they planning on sustainably addressing the end life for the packaging products they are creating? Plastics end up in our oceans for a reason. They really shouldn’t be used for as many things as they are. They should primarily be used and reused for things that are ‘easy’ to continuously re-recycle. Like large jugs for beverages as a primary use, and large jugs for cleaners after their primary use. Using plastic for static objects, like faux wood park benches, isn’t sustainable or necessary. While using plastic for other things, like some medical or safety tools, may be appropriate despite the difficulty of recycling those plastics at the end of their primary life.

    It seems those companies using non-plastics are probably on a better path than companies using recycled ocean polluting plastics in the same fashion that lead to the plastics polluting our oceans in the first place. It’d be better to use those rescued plastics for products that can’t be easily made from alternative, and more sustainable, materials.