The cannabis industry has grown rapidly in recent years, creating a global market worth billions of dollars. Due to its natural properties, the production, consumption and sale of medicinal cannabis has very strict restrictions and government regulations compared to any other crop. Yet, there is the exception of the legal vacuum that exists when we talk about sustainability and waste that this industry generates.
Plastic waste a challenge for growers too
Among the waste generated in the production of medicinal cannabis, the use of plastic is one of the most worrying. For example, just in the state of Washington, almost 2 million dollars in waste were generated between 2014 and 2017. Currently, the production of plastics has multiplied by 20% since the 1960s, which represents a challenge for a correct and efficient management of your waste.
Today, 40% of the plastic manufactured for the horticultural industry, including cannabis, is single-use packaging. The waste is disposed of in an uncontrolled way by users and governments. Correcting the problem of plastic pollution requires a fundamental change in paradigm and in our approach to manufacturing, use and how to manage waste.
But plastic is not only a problem when it reaches the end-user in the form of single-use packaging. It is also a challenge for growers: from greenhouse covers to single-use pots. The waste management of all these plastics must be treated correctly since many can be recycled and reused.
"Bluntly put, the most effective way to properly manage waste is to not generate it, using products that can be reused and giving them a lasting useful life" explains María Jesús Ferrando, Product Manager at Projar "for this reason we must tend towards a sustainable production that contributes to improving environmental quality, without forgetting that it must be economically viable.”
According to Projar, one of the largest providers of cannabis cultivation systems in the world, a good example of sustainable practice in the production phase is to use reusable pots, which allow growers to carry out many cycles for years without having to replace them.
"But not all pots last long enough, considering their intense use in the cannabis industry, since it is a very demanding type of cultivation," continues María Jesús, who explains how Projar offers solutions to their clients that provide benefits both at the production level and at the environmental level. “The sustainability of Projar’s pots can be seen first of all in the transportation method,” Maria continues. “Our carbon footprint has been 0 in transport for years. On top of that, our pots come from recycled plastics, which guarantees as many uses as the same raw material, thus generating less waste and reducing pollution.”
Maria continues explaining that it is of the utmost importance to use pots that are 100% recyclable and detectable in recycling plants thanks to NIR (Near InfraRed) technology. Projar can achieve transport sustainability thanks to an efficient packaging, so that more pots fit in a smaller space. Additionally, since they are produced using recycled plastics, the manufacturing too reduces the CO2 emission. ”For our pots, we use a Flowerpot + water pack,” she points out. “This pack ensures optimal management of the drainage water that is generated during cultivation, reducing water waste as much as possible. Projar's GrowPot pots, for example, have been designed in collaboration with our main cannabis customers to solve their specific growing needs on both an agricultural and sustainability level. “We can all make a difference in managing waste and caring for the environment. All of our product choices are critical to improving the world we live in and the products we produce.”
"It is important to have knowledge about the origin of the products we buy, we must be environmentally aware and try to ensure that our activity does not increase the damage to our natural environment," explains Projar.
Based on this concept, it is essential to demand from suppliers of growing media the responsibility of working and manufacturing sustainable products, not only when we talk about plastics but also with the raw materials that we use as a growing medium.
According to María, “coconut fiber, widely used as a substrate in cannabis cultivation, is a renewable organic material with a long shelf life. In addition, it has the ability to be compressed, optimizing its transport and generating a lower carbon footprint. The origin of the coconut fiber is a renewable resource: the coconut shell. Individual wrappers are not used for their packaging, so we help to not generate more waste.” Once the growing cycle is over, the coconut fiber can be recycled through composting and used for other uses or growing activities.
Ultimately, environmental awareness in cannabis cultivation does not only involve better managing of plastic and polluting waste, but also choosing sustainability as the basis of purchasing decisions. The more sustainable products are introduced into growing systems, the greater the contribution to preserving our environment.
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