The Cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country and with more and more states preparing to vote on marijuana legalization, the market is expected to see a tremendous boom in new businesses, product demand, and sales. As it stands, the cannabis industry uses more than a billion units of plastic every year and that number is expected to continuously rise. Many earth-conscious companies are now implementing measures to offset plastic packaging and ensure the cannabis industry does everything it can to reduce its annual waste, rather than escalate it. This has led to the production of greener alternative products, such as biodegradable joint tubes, biodegradable bags and various more biodegradable solutions.
In recent years, pressure has been put on cannabis companies, processors, and distributors by consumers who want to see an increase in biodegradable, recyclable and any other ecological product lines that will help us in saving our planet. However, a large portion of the population still struggle to understand exactly what these products are, how they are made, and the overall impact they will have. So, we took the initiative in breaking down a detailed explanation of what exactly biodegradable is, biodegradable packaging materials, biodegradable joint tubes and other biodegradable products that are now being integrated into the marijuana industry.
What is Biodegradable?
Biodegradability is when organic matter gets decomposed (broken down) by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that interact with abiotic factors including UV light, oxygen, and temperature, among other elements. The reaction between bacteria and microorganisms is spurred by their introduction to humidity, induced by hot temperatures, as high as 300F. Biodegradation can happen anywhere from a few weeks, to a few months, even up to two years. However, the rate of degradation is much quicker than fossil-based plastic which can take 900 – 1000 years to decompose. The biodegradation process leaves no hazardous materials or chemicals behind since all the organic matter gets assimilated back into the environment.
How Biodegradable Products Are Made
Since their inception, bioplastics have played a major role in facilitating a greener environment for the world we live in. Biodegradable materials are usually obtained from sugar derivatives including cellulose, wood, and starch. The composites made up of these materials ensure that the formation of bioplastics will ultimately advance sustainability since they do not contain fossil fuels. Biodegradable packaging materials are forged into a solid compound after they are melted down and poured into molds of various-shaped products, such as biodegradable joint tubes. Biodegradable products are created to partially or fully dissolve when they encounter living organisms and naturally decompose into the environment.
a) Hydrocarbons are fossil fuels that can be turned into plastics by polymerizing chains of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and other molecules.
b) The bonds between these molecules give the bioplastic strength and provide energy for renewed use when bonds are broken during the diffusion process
c) Carbohydrates, such as carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen-based structures, are transformed from plants into polymer resins and eventually, biodegradable materials
d) The polymer resin then undergoes a reactive extrusion process and is fused with other plastic compounds
e) The end results are 100% biodegradable resin that is injection molded to take the shape of the product you desire.
What are Biodegradable Materials?
The global biodegradable plastic market is projected to grow from $17 billion this year to almost $44 billion in 2022. This trend is a response to the detrimental effects we are now seeing as a result of plastic waste; including but not limited to, excessive litter, pollution, and climate change. Biodegradable packaging is made from natural materials like biopolymers, all-natural plant extracts, carbohydrates, starches, and glycerin. As a result, biodegradable containers are a viable solution to the calamities caused by plastic waste.
A. Biodegradable Plastics
There’s more than one type of biodegradable plastic, derived from different material compounds resins, which are dependent upon the desired end of life objective. The manufacturing of bio-based plastics has shown little to no impact on nearby eco-systems where they are produced. Biodegradable products can be broken down into non-toxic residues that are better for soil fertility and have been found to produce 70% less greenhouses gases than plastics sitting in large landfills.
B. Biodegradable Hemp
Hemp plastic is an unrivaled eco-friendly product that can be recycled, as well as biodegraded. Currently, biodegradable hemp is the most suitable alternative to regular petroleum-based plastic. Considering the fact that the global thirst for plastic material is unquenchable, biodegradable hemp packaging serves as a good substitute because hemp is a renewable resource. There are three types of bioplastics that can be derived from hemp; these include composite hemp bioplastic, cellulose hemp bioplastic, and pure hemp bioplastic. When compared to petroleum-based plastic, hemp is 5 times firmer and 3.5 times stronger.
Other biodegradable packaging materials that are widely used in the biodegradable packaging industry include:
Best Biodegradable Packaging
A report compiled by New Frontier Data indicates that the marijuana sector employs more Americans than the coal industry; this goes to show how profitable the cannabis industry is. However, those profits reflect the amount of packaging that has gone into meeting product demand by consumers. Subsequently, many businesses are opting for sustainable packaging as a solution for buying and selling their marijuana products, in an effort to help save the planet's ecosystems.
Biodegradable Joint Tubes
These are products made using biodegradable plastics and plant-based polymers. Some of the raw materials used to make biodegradable joint tubes include starch, cellulose, polylactic acid (PLA), polycaprolactone (PCL), and polyhydroxy butyrate (PHB), to name a few. Moreover, our child resistant bioplastic joint tubes are made with bio blend resins and are some of the first sustainable products available to the cannabis industry!
Biodegradable bags are made from oxo-biodegradable plastic, which is made by blending a pro-degradent additive during the extrusion process and will then break down when exposed to sunlight. Biodegradable bags also contain additives and plant products that help them break down quickly and efficiently. Exit bags and mylar bags are just beginning to be produced with biodegradable material, while still retaining full functionality and child resistance.
Another way to safely store THC products is through the use of biodegradable boxes. These are mostly made from cardboard, which can be broken down by various decomposers and easily absorbed back into the soil. The state of the cardboard, whether it’s dirty or covered in residue when it is disposed of, will ultimately determine the effectiveness and rate of decomposition.
Biodegradable Packaging Cost and Benefits
As of 2014, the volume of bioplastics was 0.2% of the total global polymer market which stood at 300 million tons. Biodegradable plastics have the potential to replace typical petroleum-based plastics; nevertheless, factors such as cost of production have proven to be challenging. The monetary investment entrepreneurs have put into biodegradable technologies has been significant, although, scientists are confident that it will be paid back tenfold once people begin to witness the payoff it has for businesses, as well as the environment.
Generally, the usage of bioplastic is financially favorable, but their usage has been hindered by government regulations that favor petroleum-based plastics. Still, countries like Italy have amended their laws and now require biodegradable packaging plastic bags to be in use instead of the conventional petroleum-based plastics. Such legislations will help promote the use of bioplastics and eventually cut the cost of production.
Benefits of Biodegradable Packaging
Consume less energy during production
Contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas discharge and carbon emissions
They do not release harmful chemicals when they decompose.
Reduces the usage of water thus proving to be economical
Significantly reduces waste production
Biodegradable packaging facilitates the convenient disposal of materials
Helps businesses to attain profitability by reducing their cost of production
Biodegradable packaging contributes positively towards a brands image
It helps a company to reach new customers who prefer to use green products
What to Do with Biodegradable Packaging OR (How to Properly Dispose of Biodegradable Packaging Materials)
Contrary to what most people think, simply disposing of biodegradable packaging materials in the trash can or recycling bin isn’t appropriate. Non-biodegradable packaging products are usually disposed of through various waste collection bins, but that does not apply to biodegradable materials because they have a specified disposal process. On the flip side, the main function of biodegradable packaging is to facilitate the use of long-term alternatives; ergo, to fully achieve this goal, bioplastic products must be properly discarded and we will walk you through how that can be achieved.
Steps to Disposing Biodegradable Packaging Products
Once the biodegradable packaging fully serves its purpose, it should be disposed of in a properly identified bio-waste bin
The biodegradable packaging material is then taken away and transported to a bioreactor landfill or bio-waste facility
Once the material has undergone organic biodegradation, it can be used to produce renewable energy
Another important factor to consider in relation to biodegradable packaging material is this; just because an item is classified as a biodegradable product doesn't necessarily mean it will decompose under any environment. This is why some bioplastic can't decompose at home; therefore, the proper way to go about it is by following the outline provided above.
The benefits of using biodegradable packaging are boundless; besides saving the environment, biodegradable containers also help a company boost its brand recognition and credibility. When it comes to plastic use, it is important to recognize how destructive our habits have become because we are all guilty of overindulging and taking for granted how easy it is to use a plastic product once, throw it away, and not consider the consequences once it is out of sight. If we can all work together to utilize more biodegradable and ecological products, we will all be able to reap the benefits of a brighter future.
Be sure to check out our blog if you want to learn more about biodegradable vs compostable packaging and how you can increase the efficiency of your dispensary using biodegradable packaging materials.