Marijuana Business Magazine May-June 2019

May-June 2019 | 81 By Kristen Nichols Recycled cannabis waste turns into big business as companies find new ways to monetize biomass from hemp and marijuana production There’s money in garbage—just ask Big Agriculture and traditional manufacturers. But the hemp and marijuana industries have special challenges monetizing plant waste biomass. Here are ways to get into the cannabis-waste recycling business and find buyers for leftover hemp and marijuana plant material: • Network like crazy. The best way to find a buyer for your hemp or marijuana waste is to attend industry gatherings and conferences to make connections with cannabis recyclers. • Reach out to older industries. To find contacts and learn business strategies, connect with entrepreneurs involved in manufacturing and food companies. They have decades of experience monetizing waste. • Start slow. Can’t find a buyer to turn your hemp stalk into automotive components? Look for recyclers who will turn your waste biomass into agricultural compost. It’s a less-glamorous way to reuse cannabis waste but an important one nonetheless. • Know the rules. Unlike other plants, marijuana and hemp are subject to strict government oversight. A college stint on an Illinois cattle farm gave John Whiteside some stinky inspiration to launch a business in one of the most promising sectors of the marijuana and hemp in- dustries: waste disposal. Now the cannabis waste sector and entrepreneurs such as Whiteside are exploring ways that cultivators and pro- cessors can turn piles of plant waste and post-extraction green goop into revenue. The waste industry offers entrepre- neurs an opportunity to enter an emerg- ing business that generates marketable products ranging from animal bedding to construction materials. Marijuana and hemp growers and processors, for their part, can make a buck by selling leftover plant material. More broadly, the new sector offers the cannabis industry—long criticized for its heavy use of electricity and water—an opportunity to burnish its green image. “If we can use this resource on the back end—the (growing) media waste, the fibrous material, everything they might throw away that they can’t use in the growing and processing—we have the opportunity to make the Earth habitable again,” Whiteside noted. FromCattle to Cannabis Whiteside’s foray into cannabis waste dates to when he worked on a cattle farm near Carbondale, Illinois. There, he saw how the beef industry dealt with significant waste challenges—not just the obvious manure, but also ammonia runoff, methane emissions and all kinds of other bio-waste that need professional mitigation. After college, Whiteside was working as a health educator in Denver when Colorado's medical marijuana industry started growing. Remembering his days on the cattle farm, Whiteside saw an opportunity in all the marijuana biomass that doesn’t end up in a dispensary. “I felt like the (marijuana) industry is not going to have sustainability unless we take the loss circulation material and we turn it into something,” said Whiteside, who started his waste-removal company, IHR, in 2011. No Small Problem Like every business problem in the mari- juana and hemp industries, biomass waste reduction comes with unique challenges. Every state—and, in some cases, every town—with a legal cannabis market has