A Look at Cannabis Packaging

By Justin Allec

I remember with my very first Ontario Cannabis Store order, I bought a couple of one-gram strains. While it was a bit of a thrill to legally get cannabis in the mail, I was surprised by the amount of plastic used in the packaging. Since then, the thrill hasn’t really abated, and I still find the packaging overkill. How much plastic does a gram of cannabis need?

Of course, the amount of packaging used for cannabis isn’t out of line with what you would find in the grocery store, where shrink-wrapped cucumbers and lettuce are the norm. And cannabis is a controlled substance, which means some special rules. The federal Cannabis Act and Health Canada require that packaging meet their criteria—for one, it’s supposed to protect against accidental consumption by making the packaging difficult for children to open, as well as not advertising the contents in any appealing way (that’s why there aren’t pictures of buds on the labels). As well, the packaging must keep the product as fresh as possible, which means that plastic, significantly lighter and stronger than glass, becomes the material of choice.

If you’re purchasing cannabis regularly, you may have a stockpile of empty containers that you aren’t sure what to do with. Do you just throw them out? Or are there other options for your used packaging?

Following the ol’ reduce-reuse-recycle triangle, reducing cannabis packaging is the first thing to consider. Consider shopping brands that use less plastic, recycled plastic, or reflect other efforts to reduce packaging, such as vacuumed-sealed bags. If you’re not sure which brands to look for, talk to your local budtender. As well, buying larger quantities sometimes works, as many producers use “one size fits all” containers for their cannabis products, so buying more means less waste.

If you’re trying to reuse your containers, you’re fighting against that pungent cannabis smell. Even a harsh scrub won’t do too much—the cannabis has permeated the plastic completely. Uses around the house are then kind of limited, but they come in handy in the garage or shed for storing small items like nuts, bolts, and seeds. One idea I’ve yet to try is to use the old packaging for storing your homegrown buds and potentially gifting it to friends. Oh, and if you are using these containers elsewhere in the house, scratch the label off first.

Finally, thanks to Thunder Bay’s expanded recycling program you can now recycle cannabis containers at the curb. Though I’m still not certain about the success of our city’s recycling program, it’s at least an effort in the right direction. If the packaging is #1 through #7 plastic and thoroughly rinsed, it can be picked up and recycled. Another option is to check with your local store and see if they offer recycling services. For example, both Kia Ora locations have drop-off bins for used packaging and empty vape cartridges that don’t require you to enter the store.

If you’re growing your own, then you’re doing even more to combat the scourge of overpackaging, but that option isn’t available to everyone. The next time you go to the store for a restock, maybe consider more than what’s inside the container. As with all our efforts to be greener, it’s small steps that add up to positive change.