Cannabis is a growing industry with innumerable uses. Now, after years of prohibition and stigma, the dream of cannabis adoption has finally come true. Here’s what you need to know about how legalization will affect us all.,
Canada is set to legalize cannabis for recreational use on October 17th, 2018. But before the country does so, it has a lot of work to do first. Cannabis prohibition and its associated stigma have resulted in mass incarceration and social inequality between genders. The industry as we know it needs a complete overhaul if cannabis is going to be used safely and responsibly by adults across Canada.
Many people link cannabis with eco-friendly, counter-cultural movements, yet we all know that the cannabis business has severe environmental consequences. Given the current climate crisis, cannabis producers must guarantee that future industry needs are satisfied in an ecologically friendly manner. We also know that as the globe sees the effects of climate change, consumers’ buying patterns are shifting 1. As a consequence, businesses have a financial incentive to seriously explore enacting additional environmental legislation in order to align their interests with those of their customers. Regulated cannabis research and the legal cannabis sector, however, make it difficult to apply many ecologically friendly options in manufacturing. This does not, however, excuse us from doing nothing while we wait; there are several measures we may take while we attempt to overcome these obstacles. Our goal at Delic Labs is to assist firms in ensuring the cannabis industry’s environmental and economic viability. So we performed some study and came up with the Cannabis Better Future (CBF) idea, which is a guide that takes into account the environmental effects of cannabis production and processing. CBF is built on the following pillars:
1. Production of renewable/recyclable materials
The excessive packaging utilized for legal cannabis products is well-known. A normal 3.5 gram of dried cannabis is reported to include about 70 grams of plastic in its packaging. This apparently redundant packaging is done to comply with cannabis packaging standards, which often demand single-use plastic with certain label and warning sizes 2. Despite this, efforts are being made to get industry approval for biodegradable packaging.
Plant-based materials are being used by more firms, such as Knot Plastic, to offer medical-grade biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastic 3. As members of the industry, we should rally behind these businesses and push for legislation that allow biodegradable packaging to be approved. In terms of urgent initiatives, we may look to firms that limit the quantity of plastic produced in the industry that ends up in landfills. The Tweed x TerraCycle Cannabis Packaging Recycling Program accepts all cannabis containers from licensed producers in Canada for free and melts them down to make new products 4. Tins, plastic bags, tubes, and bottles with child-proof tops fall under this category. More than 165,000 containers have been saved from landfills as a result of the program.
2. Recycle biodegradable garbage
Up to 4.5 pounds of plant waste is created for every pound of cannabis harvested, according to estimates. 5. Landfill, composting, in-vessel digestion, and incineration are all options for disposing of cannabis biomass waste. 6. Because it is the cheapest approach, cannabis bio-waste frequently ends up in landfills. Landfill disposal, on the other hand, represents a squandered opportunity for businesses to utilise biomass waste for cost-effective and ecologically beneficial purposes.
Some businesses are looking at sustainable bio-circular solutions to decrease landfill waste, such as converting cannabis biomass into compost, bio-plastics, and paper packaging for cannabis goods. 7. With present rules in place, the best option to utilize cannabis biomass is to upcycle it into compost and greywater that may be used for industrial growing. Bleach is now used to remove THC from biomass, rendering it unsuitable for these applications. 6. However, Micron Waste Technologies Inc. has shown that enzymatic denaturation may be used to extract THC from biomass on an industrial scale, resulting in reusable water and biodegradable matter 8. By using this alternate approach, you may save money on fertilizer and replace bleach with a more ecologically friendly option.
3. Recycle waste from the manufacturing process.
Terpenes are the chemicals in cannabis that give it its characteristic scents and tastes, which customers seek out. Over 30% of terpenes, as well as the water phase of the product, might be lost during the cannabis drying step 9. This terpene-rich water phase is confined in drying rooms and decarboxylation furnaces and is normally discarded. Companies generally buy terpenes to reinsert them into their goods. Instead, they may be recapturing terpenes that would otherwise go to waste and incorporating them into their goods. Recapturing terpenes would minimize not just the energy used in the manufacture and transportation of bought terpenes, but also the cost of purchasing them.
Many additional by-products that are thrown away may be recycled. Ethanol used as an extraction solvent may also be utilized as a cleaning solvent, decreasing the need to buy ethanol separately for cleaning. Condensation collected in HVAC systems may also be recycled to water plants.
4. Improve the energy efficiency of production
According to Summers et al. 11, the greenhouse gas emissions from generating one kilogram of dried cannabis flower vary from 2,283 to 5,184 kg of CO2. The use of electricity for indoor cultivation is the primary source of these emissions. In reality, in the United States alone, nearly $6 billion is spent each year to power industrial cannabis cultivation plants. 12. Although growing cannabis outdoors is more energy efficient, non-auto blooming, high-THC cannabis plants need precise sunshine (and darkness) scheduling to thrive 13. In an outdoor environment, ideal circumstances for these plants are not always possible. Meanwhile, THC levels in auto-flowering plants that thrive in the outdoors are often lower 14. Supporting research towards developing more stable cannabis cultivars might make outdoor cultivation more possible. Upregulating THC synthesis in cannabis and enhancing heartiness in diverse climates is clearly within the range of possibilities 15–17, given recent work with genetically modified and transgenic plants.
Meanwhile, growing facilities may help to maintain a regulated growth environment with less energy loss by doing their share. Companies that still use high-intensity sodium lights should consider replacing them with high-efficiency LED bulbs 12. These are a suitable choice since they create less heat and need less mechanical cooling as a consequence. Many plants, including cannabis, have been found to grow better under blue-red LED lighting 18,19. Increased THC and CBD levels, as well as overall bigger plants, were associated with growth under these circumstances 18. LED lights provide an adjustable spectrum range and flexible mobility in addition to reduced energy consumption. By accurately managing each spectral region and altering spectral quality and light intensity, it is feasible to regulate the spectrum particularly for cannabis crops. Finally, to minimize the amount of mechanical cooling required, lights may be moved closer to plants.
5. Make use of high-precision procedures
Only through optimizing the process can energy consumption be reduced while production rates be maintained. In the cannabis sector, our own research promotes process optimization. Reducing wasted time on different machinery is an important part of industrial optimization. When the instrumentation is not developing the response, this machine “junk time” might accumulate for cannabis producers.
In this scenario, conserving energy involves making sure machinery aren’t running if they aren’t moving the reaction along. Many organizations, for example, spend around two hours on the decarboxylation stage since decarboxylation is always completed after two hours 20; nevertheless, decarboxylations are sometimes completed in as little as thirty minutes 21. Installing a monitor on decarboxylation systems to halt processes once they are complete may save energy.
It is critical to reduce the cannabis industry’s environmental implications in order to tackle the looming climate disaster. While loosening restrictions on cannabis research and reducing stigmas surrounding the legal industry will ultimately pave the way for meaningful changes toward a sustainable industry, cannabis businesses cannot wait for regulatory changes to take place before considering environmentally friendly practices. According to CBF, there are already current initiatives that all businesses may do to minimize their carbon footprint right now. Delic Labs, like many other startups we’ve mentioned, aims to assist businesses in making these choices for a better cannabis future.