Canadian cannabis producer Tilray Brands has started to convert some of its packaging and product components to hemp in an attempt to minimize the use of single-use plastics that end up in landfills.
The use of single-use plastics and cannabis-related waste is a growing problem in Canada’s marijuana industry as well as in other markets, including those in the United States.
Tilray’s move, which involves packaging as well as pre-rolls and vape components, is believed to be the first major commitment by a large Canadian cannabis producer to meaningfully minimize the use of plastics.
It could spur others to follow suit.
The company estimates its new hemp-packaging program will divert at least 131,000 kilograms (288,805 pounds) of plastic from landfills each year.
The environmental impact of recreational cannabis legalization in Canada has been in the spotlight recently, with a preliminary report by a government-appointed panel noting that packaging waste was ‘a leading concern” raised throughout the first phase of their review of the 2018 Cannabis Act.
“The limited evidence available suggests only a small share of plastic cannabis packaging is recycled, and there has been growing focus on vaping cartridges and batteries, which pose additional challenges for recycling due to the presence of metal, glass, electronics, and batteries,” according to the October report, which was issued five years after Canada launched adult-use sales.
Broadly speaking, Canadian cannabis companies are still producing more cannabis products than they’re able to sell.
For instance, in 2022, Canadian companies packaged 50.4 million cannabis extract products, according to federal data.
However, only 40.8 million of those were sold in recreational and medical cannabis channels that year.
That leaves nearly 10 million excess products in just this one category.
Health Canada welcomes new approaches
In an emailed response to MJBizDaily, a spokesperson for Health Canada said the federal regulator does not track the amount of packaging used or discarded in the cannabis industry.
Most of the packaging rules deal only with public safety.
For instance, cannabis packaging must be child-resistant and tamper-evident, and the immediate container must be either opaque or translucent.
“Within these parameters, licensed cannabis processors are free to design their packaging and labelling as they see fit,” the regulator said.
The regulator said there are no requirements or standards to use recyclable containers and packaging for legal cannabis products.
It also said it’s receptive to packaging approaches that are environmentally friendly.
“Health Canada welcomes licensed processors to use innovative and environmentally sound packaging approaches, provided the requirements in the regulations are satisfied,” according to the spokesperson.
‘To be clear, there is no regulatory requirement under the Cannabis Act that stipulates that plastic must be used by cannabis processors.”
For Tilray, the transition will begin with its popular Good Supply brand and, later this year, will expand to include its brands Riff and Broken Coast.
“The Canadian cannabis industry has faced ongoing challenges in embracing ecofriendly choices when it comes to product packaging,” Tilray said in making the announcement.
Tilray is the leader in Canada in terms of cannabis market share, so the move could prompt competitors to take similar steps.
The Leamington, Ontario- and New York-based company said the transition is good both for business and the environment.
Citing its own research, Tilray suggested consumers are 50% more likely to purchase a cannabis product that comes in sustainable packaging over one that doesn’t.
Tilray originally made the pledge to adopt hemp-based packaging during a January conference call with stock analysts.
“In 2023, Tilray will convert all flower, vape, pre-roll packaging to hemp, diverting 158,000 kilos of plastic away from landfill sites,” Tilray CEO Irwin Simon said at the time.
The lower landfill figure might reflect that Tilray is starting the new initiative with its Good Supply brand before expanding to other products.
The Good Supply hemp initiative includes products such as:
- Pre-rolls and Pax Pods cartridges: For pre-rolls and 1-gram Pax Pods cartridges, Good Supply will be adopting eco-friendly “hemp tubes.”
- 510 vape cartridges: Good Supply-branded cartridges will soon come with hemp-composite mouthpieces.
Tilray is also moving away from plastic bags for its whole-flower products, using bags made from recycled content.
That shift alone is expected to divert 38,000 kilograms of plastic waste from landfills annually, Tilray estimates.
Matt Lamers can be reached at email@example.com.