Cannabis waste cannot be treated like any other farm or product waste, it has to go through stringent checks and measures to ensure that it does not end up in the black market.
When most people think of cannabis, waste disposal rarely comes to mind. Sadly, this is one of the biggest headaches plaguing the industry today. Unlike other farm and product waste, cannabis waste has to be treated with a high level of caution. There is the obvious risk that some potent refuse could find its way into the black market. If this doesn’t happen, there is also the risk of some teenagers happening on some carelessly disposed of stash. To avoid such risk, the provenance of cannabis waste must be prioritized at individual, corporate and government levels.
Why is Cannabis Waste Disposal a Big Deal?
Under US federal law, cannabis is a scheduled drug and is therefore prohibited. This is because of the psychoactive component THC found in weed. THC has also been reported to cause mild psychedelic effects alongside being a therapeutic agent.
Given that cannabis, which contains THC, is a regulated substance then waste containing the same should also be a public health concern. This waste could either end up in the black market or find its way in the hands of minors. The jury is still out on the severity of this risk, but for now, the government is doing all it can to ensure that cannabis waste is destroyed and accounted for.
To achieve this, the government has to work with all stakeholders to track cannabis waste from seed to sale. All types of waste including plant material, finished products and packaging must be properly disposed and the government made aware (through a tracking system) of the disposal. The rules may vary from one state to another, but there are a few factors that are common across states. They include:
- Who is licensed to dispose of cannabis waste?
- What is defined as cannabis waste? How much THC?
- A tracking system for cannabis from seed to sale
- How cannabis waste should be disposed of
How do Cannabis Operations Manage Waste?
At the farm level, cannabis waste is defined as all the leftovers gathered after harvest. This includes stems, leaves, stalks, unused buds, and even soil. Wholesalers and retailers will have cannabis products, packaging material, and unused ingredients to worry about. The products may be unused, damaged or expired, but how they are disposed of is very critical and must adhere to a compliance process.
Here is a breakdown of how different operators manage their waste to remain compliant:
- Cannabis Cultivators
People who farm cannabis will have lots of waste to deal with. Anything that comes into contact with the plants, as well as all the remains from the plants, needs to be disposed of with care. In most states, the farmer is required to grind this material to reduce the volume and later ship it off-site to a licensed composter. A farmer cannot burn or compost the waste in their property unless they have been licensed to do so. Some states also allow farmers to landfill cannabis waste that has been composted into the unrecognizable matter.
- Cannabis Processors
Processors are the people who manufacturer cannabis products from the raw materials. They also generate a lot of waste that will need to be disposed of. This includes leftover organic material, packaging, and everything that may be THC-contaminated in the process. Apart from cannabis waste, processors also produce other hazardous waste that must appropriately be disposed of. Some processors are licensed to destroy this waste on their own. If this is not the case, the waste must be crushed and delivered to parties that have been licensed to do handle the waste.
- Cannabis Retailers
Retailers deliver the final product to the consumer; they include cannabis dispensaries and stores that stock cannabis products. They handle waste such as damaged or expired goods and packaging material. They are required to log every product they obtain into a tracking system that accounts for the endpoint of each product. Retailers work with licensed waste disposal companies to get rid of cannabis waste.
What About Consumers?
As a patient, there is much waste generated on your end. This also exempts you from a lot of the bureaucracy associated with getting rid of cannabis waste. However, you are responsible for keeping the cannabis products you have out of the reach of children and minors, this includes waste as well. Cannabis products that may need disposal include those that have gone stale and products you no longer use.
Cannabis waste in the hands of consumers needs to be treated like pharma medicines in need of disposal. You cannot just dump them in the trash can because they can be found by children, teens, and pets as well.
Cannabis waste generated at home needs to be destroyed to an extent that it cannot be identified. You can do this by crushing dry products, diluting oils and mixing with other compost material. Liquids can also be flushed in the toilet. If you have a lot of cannabis waste that has accumulated in your home, it might be better to use a waste disposal company to help you get rid of the waste.
What Of Already Vaped Bud?
Already Vaped Bud (AVB) is the brittle and yellowish remains that are left over after vaporizing some cannabis. AVB can be put to some good use because it still has medicinal value. It is best to store it in airtight containers to preserve it for later use. As much as the potency may be diminished, there is still a lot of value that can be derived from such leftover buds. Once done with AVB, the remains will be negligible and can be easily mixed with other waste and destroyed.
- Seattle.gov: Managing Cannabis Waste in Seattle. Retrieved from https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SPU/Cannabis%20Soild%20Waste%20Best%20Management%20Practices.pdf
- Colorado.gov: Waste disposal – environmental impacts of cannabis. Retrieved from https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/greencannabis/waste-disposal
- Waste Today Magazine (2019): Why cannabis legalization means big business for haulers. Retrieved from https://www.wastetodaymagazine.com/article/cannabis-legalization-waste-haulers/