Cannabis Packaging Pain Points: Unsustainable Materials

All cannabis businesses need compliant packaging in order to legally sell their product...

Cannabis Packaging Pain Points: Unsustainable Materials

All cannabis businesses need compliant packaging in order to legally sell their products. However, the specific packaging requirements vary significantly across cultivators, brands, wholesale distributors, and retail dispensaries. 

As a result, hundreds of single-use packaging manufacturers who traditionally made packaging in the CPG world rushed to pivot to provide options for cannabis packaging.  

And when the livelihood of your cannabis business is dependent on compliant packaging that fits the specific needs and size of your business, low-cost packaging, even if it’s made from unsustainable materials, can appear to be an attractive option. 

However, there are major trade offs businesses should acknowledge when utilizing unsustainable packaging options. 

This is the sixth blog post in our series about cannabis packaging pain points. The first three posts examined slow turnaround times & long lead times, expensive shipping & international shipping challenges, poor customer service, high minimum order quantities, and complicated customization processes.

This blog post examines issues associated with using unsustainable materials to manufacture cannabis packaging, and how you can be a part of the solution as a cannabis business.

Unsustainable Materials

Why do companies use unsustainable materials to make cannabis packaging and what challenges does this pose for the cannabis industry?

Compliant Packaging Requirements

Due to current industry regulations, cannabis packaging is required by law to be single-use. Additionally, there are also child-resistance requirements and FDA approval requirements that vary depending on the state.

This has led most packaging suppliers for the cannabis industry to rely on low-cost, unsustainable materials in order to mass-produce packaging for cannabis businesses that meets various regulatory requirements. 

Unfortunately, these conditions have led many businesses in the “green industry” to utilize packaging made from materials that have a negative impact on the environment. 

Cash Flow Considerations

Cannabis businesses come in all shapes and sizes and many cannabis businesses are startups. With that in mind, sustainable packaging options that utilize innovative materials and manufacturing processes don’t always fit the needs of cannabis businesses or the realities of their cash flow. 

Depending on the stage of your cannabis business, there are a variety of cash flow scenarios and concerns to consider. As a new business especially, it can be daunting to be told that you are going to pay 2-3 times more per unit for packaging made from sustainable materials to help be a part of the solution to a massive problem.

Undefined Goals and Values

In addition to the varying sizes and types of cannabis businesses that exist, there is also a wide range of value systems that exist across the cannabis industry. Let’s face it, not everyone got into this industry for the same reasons. 

Some saw an opportunity to be a part of something new, others saw a chance to make a quick buck, while others entered the industry with the intention to make a positive difference in both individual people’s lives and the communities we’re a part of.

So in a world where not every business has the same goals and values, it is important to consider each aspect of your business, including your packaging options, and reflect on whether they align with your company ethos. 

In many cases, businesses do not realize the impact that something seemingly as innocuous as the materials their packaging is made from can have on their brand image and overall value proposition.

Solutions to Unsustainable Packaging Materials

Ultimately, the best way to address any cannabis packaging pain point is to work with a packaging supplier you can trust and to build a long-term relationship with your packaging supplier. 

So what are some steps you can take to find packaging options that fit your business needs and state regulatory requirements while not negatively impacting the environment?

Talk to Your Cannabis Packaging Supplier 

It all starts with a conversation! You have to talk to your cannabis packaging supplier to ensure you are on the same page. Only then can you begin building the trust required to sustain a long-term working relationship. 

Ask These 3 Key Questions 

1. What are my values as a cannabis business?
For any new business, creating clearly defined values and using those principles to guide your operating procedures and purchasing decisions is challenging. It is easy to say your business has goals and values, but it is much more difficult to operate in a way that actually reciprocates those values.

This is why defining your value system as a cannabis business is so important, especially because this whole industry is still so new. Clear values can help guide decisions, such as choosing to explore sustainable packaging options rather than just using the cheapest option available.

2. Does my business have the budget to explore sustainable packaging options?
Due to sourcing challenges, material shortages, and more complex manufacturing processes, sustainable packaging options are often more expensive per unit than standard, mass-produced plastic options that are widely available. 

Ask yourself as a business if, because you are at a point in your growth strategy or have clear value systems, spending more on packaging made from sustainable materials is a worthwhile expense. 

Remember that we are all in this together. While we appreciate the day-to-day cash flow considerations that many new businesses are facing, we also believe very strongly in utilizing packaging made from sustainable materials if it is within your means as a business to do so.

3. Does my packaging partner understand the needs of my business?
It is incredibly important to build a strong working relationship with your cannabis packaging supplier so you can better understand each other's needs and. A strong working relationship with your cannabis packaging supplier will also make them more likely to go out of their way to help you meet the unique needs of your business.

If your cannabis packaging partner has a solid understanding of your business, there are often opportunities to be more flexible, even with the low margins that sustainable packaging companies face. 

Whenever possible, we are happy to work with our customers and offer quantity discounts, split orders, payment terms, and other solutions that can help ease the financial constraints of utilizing cannabis packaging made from sustainable materials.

Key Takeaways About Unsustainable Materials in Cannabis Packaging

As we mentioned above, the best way to address any cannabis packaging pain point is to work with a packaging supplier you can trust and build a long-term relationship with. 

Some of the best ways to mitigate unsustainable packaging options are to ensure your cannabis packaging supplier has:

1. Single-use packaging options that are made from sustainable materials rather than traditional, mass-produced plastic.

2. A dedicated sales representative that knows you, your business, and your values and needs.

And if possible, try to ensure that your cannabis business has:

1. The financial ability to spend more on packaging options that utilize sustainable materials.

2. Clear values to help guide your purchasing decisions related to packaging and other ancillary components of your business.

One of the best ways to communicate your cannabis brand’s commitment to sustainability is through your packaging, but you need to have packaging that prioritizes sustainability first! 

Contact us if you’re ready to discover the real impact your packaging has on the environment and you’re ready to build a long-term relationship with a cannabis packaging supplier you can trust. It all starts with a conversation!