When one thinks of cannabis, the high volume of waste produced by cultivators and extractors year after year is not the first thought to come to mind. A report published by the US News found that mid-sized cannabis companies produce anywhere between 250 and 500 pounds of cannabis waste per day. This includes things like soil, trimmings, stalks, stems, and roots.
In the state of California, this kind of cannabis waste was considered hazardous until a recent update to their regulations deemed it organic. Since then, words like “composting” and “recycling” are starting to get passed back and forth with growing popularity. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Composting requires more biomass than cannabis waste can create on its own, and recycling growing materials is not an easy task when fertilizers are involved.
Beyond that, state law also requires that approved and licensed services are needed to haul away cannabis waste if on-site composting or recycling is not an option. Regulations like these have ignited a trend of waste management services across the state that are seeking more eco-friendly ways to dispose of cannabis waste.
The greener side of cannabis waste management in California
Since 2017, California updated their recycling laws in order to meet the statewide goal of reducing its organic landfill waste by 75 percent over the next five years. California retailers, including cannabis companies, are now required to properly recycle their own organic waste. Waste and resource management companies are stepping in to help retailers manage their waste, and cannabis is providing a new and lucrative opportunity for them.
Quest Resource Management Group is one such group. Their organic recycling program converts waste into animal feed or compost, reducing both landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The company got a head start on California’s new laws by implementing its new food waste diversion services for its existing clients months before the laws came into effect.
Quest currently manages 2.5 million environmental services every year, and their expansion into the cannabis industry includes waste management services for every tier of the supply chain, from growers to extractors to retailers. Since the industry is still uncharted territory, and the recycling laws are new themselves, Quest works with cannabis clients to create waste management solutions that are specific to their space in the industry and the kind of waste they are producing.
Creating cannabis-specific waste management technology in Canada
The kind of waste cannabis companies produce is a very interesting variable when it comes to waste management in North America. Canada may not have the specific recycling laws that California implemented, but the country does define cannabis as both hazardous and non-hazardous depending on what kind of waste is being disposed.
Cannabis waste is considered hazardous in Canada if it contains any phytocannabinoids. The rest of the waste, such as roots, stalks, or non-viable seeds, are considered non-hazardous. Each has its own regulations for disposal, pulling many cannabis companies in different directions when it comes to throwing away their unwanted cannabis media.
Disposing of cannabis safely inspired one company to create a compliant, eco-friendly waste management system that safely eliminates the pharmaceutical properties in cannabis, making it safe to dispose of or recycle. Micron Waste Technologies’ digester, known as the “Cannavore”, uses the company’s unique blend of microbes and enzymes in an aerobic process to naturally break down cannabis waste. The system also treats water, making it possible for cultivators to reuse their water supply for each grow.
In 2017, Micron collaborated with Aurora Cannabis (TSX:ACB) (OTCQB:ACBFF) in order to optimize this waste technology and create a commercially-ready tool that would help not just cannabis companies but other retailers as well, dispose of their waste without breaking the bank.
“While our goal has always been to deliver solutions that have a positive impact on the environment, the only way to truly make a difference is by having a value proposition that provides a strong commercial rationale for adoption,” Micron CEO Rav Mlait explained in a statement.
Creating waste management solutions that can easily be adopted by existing companies is at the root of cannabis waste management. Because organic materials present a unique opportunity for recycling and composting, companies like Quest and Micron are at the forefront due to their ability to provide green solutions that are both realistic and affordable. As cannabis continues to establish itself as an empire in North American markets, the greenest waste management companies will be the ones who maintain this industry for the long-term.