Social and Environmental Justice: Plant-Based Materials (3/4)

In this installment of our series exploring the relationship between environmental just...

Plant-Based Packaging

In this installment of our series exploring the relationship between environmental justice and social justice, we want to dive a little deeper into the specific materials we use to make our cannabis packaging products.

We will highlight why we use plant-based hemp plastic to manufacture cannabis packaging and the role this material plays in our effort to transition toward circularity.

The Possibilities of Industrial Hemp for Cannabis Packaging

Industrial hemp is an ideal material for bioplastics because it is rapidly renewable and regenerative. Beyond bioplastics, hemp has also proven to be a highly successful input for manufacturing numerous other sustainable products, including textiles, paper, building materials, and biofuels. That said, industrial hemp is still an underutilized resource in modern manufacturing.

Why Are Manufacturers Hesitant to Adopt Hemp Materials 

One reason manufacturers have been slow to adopt hemp as an input in their processes is due to prohibition; until the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect, hemp was federally illegal.

Businesses and consumers are often scared off because goods produced from hemp tend to be slightly more expensive. The price of hemp-based products can be attributed to two things: Industrial hemp supply chains have yet to reach economies of scale, and manufacturers often have to significantly change their processes to effectively use hemp as a feedstock.

Between the global pandemic, civil rights protests, and wildfires, it can be easy to forget that we’re also in the midst of a global waste crisis. However, amid the growing fog of smoke, disease, and tear gas, it has never been more clear that businesses have a responsibility to the environment and our communities to change how we extract and use natural resources to manufacture products like plastics.

Hemp Packaging Allows us to Fulfill our Responsibility to the Environment

With changing regulations and attitudes toward industrial hemp, we hope this plant will continue to play a growing role in our effort to transition to a circular economy. We also know that as industrial hemp supply chains approach economies of scale and manufacturers adapt their processes to this new material, the cost of goods produced from hemp will drop significantly.

What is Hemp Plastic for Eco-Friendly Cannabis Containers

The hemp plastic we use at Sana Packaging is 100% plant-based and chemical-free. Technically, it’s a fiber-reinforced biocomposite made from 30% micronized hemp hurd and 70% polylactic acid (PLA), and we use biobased binders so that the material is truly 100% plant-based.

How to Use Hemp Plastic in Sustainable Cannabis Packaging 

Currently, we use plant-based hemp plastic to manufacture tubes and containers for cannabis products like pre-rolls, vape cartridges, flower, and concentrates. Sana Packaging containers can, of course, be used for other products, too; we are continuously blown away by the innovative ways our customers use our plant-based hemp plastic packaging for their specific product needs.

Hemp-Based Cannabis Packaging for a Circular Economy

Using plant-based hemp plastic ties directly into our effort to transition to a circular economic model.

Our hemp plastic products use a rapidly renewable and regenerative feedstock. Additionally, our plant-based hemp plastic products are sourced and made in the United States.

We also employ a regional manufacturing strategy to minimize the distances materials travel. In so doing, we also support domestic agriculture and regional manufacturing – i.e. local businesses – in the regions in which we operate.

How Hemp Plastic Helps to Address the Failures of the Waste Management System

Unfortunately, the current waste management systems in the United States are not set up to effectively process #7 recyclables or to compost bioplastics, regardless of whether or not they are compostable or biodegradable.

This is a huge system failure that needs to be addressed. We hope that as more consumers demand plant-based products and more businesses manufacture plant-based products, consumers will pressure our antiquated waste management systems to adapt to a plant-based future.

In the United States, our recycling system is broken, our composting system is barely a system at all, and our landfills are full of materials that should either be recycled or composted. As we discussed in our last blog post, low-income and disenfranchised communities are the most severely impacted by our crumbling waste management infrastructure.

While our waste management infrastructure is the largest piece of this puzzle, another important piece needs to be addressed: the secondary markets for recycled and reclaimed materials. There is currently not a large enough market for recycled and reclaimed materials to sustainably support the amount of waste humans create.

Raising Awareness and Demand for Plant-Based Cannabis Packaging

At Sana Packaging, we hope to lead by example by driving value to markets for not just plant-based materials but also recycled and reclaimed materials. We will address secondary markets for recycled and reclaimed materials more in-depth in our next blog post, which will focus on reclaimed ocean-bound plastics.

Written by Galen Kuney