Opinion: Let the cannabis packaging sector lead the way out of an environmental tragedy

Image of a packaging assembly line
Dan Estoque
Dan Estoque

We are drowning in plastic waste. About two thirds of all plastic ever produced has been unleashed into our environment and remains there – stuck – unable to decompose.

Our oceans are the much-talked-about epicenter of this tragedy. The fear, the panic is all for very good reason. Plastics will outweigh the fish in our oceans by 2050.

Environmentalists have raised red flags and international organizations have begged for global cooperation to solve this epic dilemma.

There have been some changes in the behaviors of the populations of industrialized nations and perhaps we are beginning to see nano-bits of progress inch us forward in the right direction.

Small progress is better than no progress, but we need to do more.

Big Pharma moves too slow

This is where an opportunity opens for the nascent cannabis industry.

Here’s a chance to make a meaningful contribution to Mother Earth while reinforcing the legitimacy of the business and demonstrating its many responsible acts.

After all, the marijuana industry is projected to reach $52.6 billion in the U.S. alone by the end of 2026, according to the 2022 MJBiz Factbook, and it makes good business sense to put the spotlight on things that the community is doing to make the world a better place.

The packaging of drugs, prescriptions and over-the-counter products is doing great harm to our environment.

The pill bottles we all use are largely not recyclable: 91% of plastic containers wind up as environmental waste.

You know those plastic pill bottles you throw out? They can take up to 1,000 years to disintegrate.

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But it’s going to take a herculean effort for Big Pharma and retail giants to find solutions – and implement them – to replace plastics so we can get our needed meds.

These organizations are too big, too unwieldly. Decision-making and action come slowly to corporations of mammoth size.

Ultimately, these corporations will come onboard. I believe many of them have good intentions to become more eco-friendly with their packaging.

This all takes time, however.

Younger, more nimble market

The young cannabis industry is not yet bogged down by the burdens of bureaucracy and comfortable inaction.

Decision-making still comes easier because of the lack of endless corporate hurdles to jump.

Vibrant businesspeople are carving out a new, often embattled, business category through fierce determination, unyielding vision and creative problem-solving.

To thrive in the burgeoning cannabis industry, you need to be this kind of action-oriented leader.

These are the people who also should be leading the charge to change our decades-old dirty habit of plastic packaging.

Like the cannabis industry, the eco-friendly packaging business is another growth area in 2022.

Innovators and entrepreneurs are exploring a variety of options to bring products to market in a manner that will satisfy customers’ needs yet reduce our carbon footprint.

A biodegradable plastic equivalent is not on the immediate horizon yet as far as I know.

The solutions that are available, or are about to become available, are likely to require some effort on behalf of the consumer, such as exchanging used packaging for recycled or sanitized new packaging.

Eco-friendly packaging innovators are ready to talk with forward-thinking business leaders eager to make impactful changes to their product packaging to save our planet.

The cannabis industry is a perfect starting point.

With an aware, eco-savvy customer base, perhaps there isn’t a more perfect match.

As the cannabis business succeeds with creative, nonplastic packaging, it can demonstrate to other industries that new thinking is possible, and we can change the product-to-consumer paradigm that is killing our oceans.

My ask to cannabis industry leaders: Please seek out alternative packaging solutions.

Take the initiative to seek out the new breed of eco-forward packaging manufacturers.

Work within your business ecosystem to drive change to save our seas and protect our futures.

Reusable, eco-friendly packaging will be good public relations for the cannabis industry, but it’ll be an even bigger win for our environment.

Dan Estoque is CEO of Boulder, Colorado-based Mediloq, which creates child-safe packaging that is reusable and refillable. He can be reached at dan.estoque@mediloq.com.

The previous installment of this series is available here.

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