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Cannabis, Plastic Waste, & Prosthetics

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Itʼs been almost six years since recreational legalization in Colorado, and weʼve

seen the expansion of the industry grow to include all sorts of flower strains, dab

types, carts, edibles—legal weed in pretty much any form and product you can

imagine. While being one of the first states to go fully legal has definitely been an

exhilarating ride, all this new consumer product has generated an unanticipated

problem: a rise in cannabis industry waste. And, Colorado is not alone in

the cannabis waste issue since more and more states are changing laws.

Why Colorado Is Required by Law to Use Specific Cannabis


Why are companies required to use all this extra packaging in Colorado? It all

comes down to three big laws:

  • Packages must be childproof or placed in a child-resistant exit package

  • Package must be resealable if not intended for single-use

  • Package must be sealed to leave dispensary in an exit bag

What once could be purchased in a basic baggie is now encapsulated in

everything from shrink wrap and cardboard to plastic tubs and childproof bags.

Anyone who has purchased cannabis can attest to the fact that just getting down

to what they purchased can seem to end in a preposterous amount of trash.

Waste Issues with Plastic Cannabis Packaging

Not only is there a lot of cannabis waste out there to contend with, but it is also

posing major problems where plastic trash is concerned. Plus, the expectation is

for cannabis consumption to rise in the coming years. Some reports even expect

just cannabis concentrate sales alone to triple by 2022. Consumers are also

having a hard time recycling their plastic cannabis packaging, and most packages

are not made to be environmentally-friendly. To make matters worse, some states

have stiff regulations about how plastic cannabis waste can be handled, even

barring retailers from utilizing their own recycling methods.

One Company Is Converting Cannabis Packaging Waste Into


One surprisingly innovative way cannabis packaging waste is being put to use is to

make prosthetics. As many as 30 million people around the world are in need

of prosthetics. One company, Kindness3D, has come up with a way to use

cannabis packaging waste to create prosthetics through innovative medical

advancement and the use of 3D printing equipment. The company itself is located

in Nova Scotia where cannabis waste issues are generating a lot of concern. With

3D printing being more financially accessible now than ever, it may be possible to

reduce one-time waste by reusing plastic from many avenues, including cannabis

plastic waste.

How to Recycle Cannabis Packaging in Denver

Noting the problem, the city of Denver has taken the initiative to educate

consumers about how to handle their cannabis waste within the area. Of course,

all cities and states handle their waste in different ways, so outside of Denver, it is

best to check with local waste management companies for advice. In Denver,

however, remember:

  • #2 HDPE and #5 polypropylene plastic containers can be recycled with usual

  • plastic recyclables

  • Glass bottles can be recycled; plastic caps trashed

  • Uncoated paper boxes, aluminum tins, and #5 Polypropylene made with prodegradant can be recycled

Also, keep in mind that mylar bags can be reused and #7 hemp plastic is

biodegradable so it is safe to go in the trash.

The Cannabis Industry Is Ever-Evolving as Sustainable and

Environmentally Kind

It was a long and hard fight to get cannabis back in full swing as a mainstream

consumer product, so you can be willing to bet the industry as a whole will

continually improve where sustainability is concerned.

With technology advancing and legalization growing nationwide, we all have to

look at what we can do to help recycle, reuse, and reduce waste. Some companies

are taking the initiative to create their own plant-based hemp packaging and

making use of reclaimed plastic waste from the ocean. Others are looking into

specific cannabis-packaging-specific recycling ideas. We look forward to new

technology in the future to help create more sustainable practices in the cannabis


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