Small Recycling Options For Large Packaging Waste
As Arizonans continue to gain access to legal cannabis, we face a universal byproduct of the industry: packaging waste. Like other consumable products, cannabis comes in disposable packaging. These small pieces of packaging are usually made from recyclable materials, but no viable route can recycle them. Why? The main reason is that recycling programs cannot recycle plastic and glass objects smaller than two inches in diameter. That means small plastic and glass containers literally fall through the cracks of sorting systems and go into landfills in most places, including in Arizona, even we put them into the recycling system. That also means billions of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter containers end up in landfills each year, where they’ll sit for hundreds if not thousands of years… just because they can’t be recycled, even though they’re recyclable.
Dispensaries haven’t had access to recycling programs, and while cannabis users see waste and want sustainable systems, they also need systems that protect personal information. Now that the dysfunctional old recycling system is in the mainstream conversation and the public has witnessed global problems that can result. People want to know who’s doing the recycling, where the recyclables are going, and whether their materials are actually making it through the entire recycling process.
One of those people is Garret Schwartz from Phoenix, Arizona. Garret is a native Arizonan and entrepreneur by blood, but it was only in 2018 that he began to work on a project that has become his obsession — finding a ubiquitously wasted resource, creating better systems around it, and diverting a problem into a helpful new solution. During his last two years of college, he and a couple of friends began researching, tinkering with recycling and manufacturing equipment, and learning about every aspect of plastic recycling and manufacturing in hopes of making things better.
Innovations For A Better Future
Garret had also used medical cannabis for several years and, like many patients, had a dresser drawer full of old containers that he didn’t know how to safely dispose of. After over a year of building and pivoting, Garret and his team (which now just included Garret and his older brother, Brandon) realized this was a big problem worth solving. They considered how alternative innovations, such as biodegradable packaging or hemp-based plastics, might play a helpful role and whether recycling and upcycling was the best option for the cannabis industry and community. After understanding the details and the need for systematization, they set out to build solutions.
This now innovative recycling company in Phoenix, Arizona is called Resinate Recycling. Resinate (pronounced like “Resin + ate”) is a unique model designed to create a more circular economy that prevents harmful waste and offers a better future for sustainability in the community and industry. The project then developed from research and experimentation to functional, practical, meaningful innovation.
Here’s what the new system looks like now: a person who wants to recycle their cannabis packaging can go into any participating location that has Resinate’s “energy pod.” As you walk up to the recycling bin, its retro-future/cyberpunk aesthetic stands out, and if you try to lift the little door to begin recycling your containers, you’ll notice it’s locked. The simple instructions and electronic buttons on the top of the Energy Pod are there to guide you to recycle safely and effectively by first verifying that all recyclables are empty, dry, and correctly sourced. These measures help ensure compliance with state laws around cannabis, HIPAA best practices, and anti-contamination measures.
Rewarding Recyclers: Creating Win Wins
It gets better! At participating locations with a Recycle Rewards sponsor, patients may choose to earn rewards for their help in recycling and fueling the mission. This involves the patient scanning a QR code and following a few quick steps to verify recycling. After that, the patient’s account is automatically credited with free items from the sponsor and these items become available to collect at the patient’s visit during the following month. Patients can get free products every month if they continue to recycle and verify their recyclables.
Since partnering with High Grade AZ for the Recycle Rewards program at Oasis Cannabis AZ in North Chandler, the results are inspiring: the weight of plastic recycled there each week has more than doubled.
And Resinate does not stop at diverting plastic from landfills to recycling — Resinate actually uses most of the materials they capture (#5 plastic) to manufacture products from 100% recycled cannabis plastics. They use their own equipment, partly based on plans from Precious Plastic, and their own proprietary systems to sanitize, sort, process, and remanufacture plastics into new, high-quality products such as their little stash jars. These little stash jars represent a better system, which is why Arizona Dispensaries Association recently purchased 90 of these little stash jars that they will deliver as gifts to members of the Arizona Legislature during the opening week of the 2021 session. Resinate also has a patent-pending rolling tray (which helps people fill bowls and cones) currently in pre-production.
Oasis Dispensary’s Participants Are Making Real Impact
In total, the new Oasis X Resinate partnership alone has recycled over 200 lbs of plastic during a short time in 2020. When that much plastic is recycled instead of landfilled, and these plastics are used instead of virgin materials to create new, lasting products, it saves enough energy to power a 60 watt light bulb for almost 3.5 years!
Thousands of people are still saving up cannabis packaging and have long hoped for a solution. There’s certainly no silver bullet to the waste problems humanity faces, but this system has done amazing, previously impossible things and shows a lot of potential. As people increasingly demand concentrates and other forms of cannabis, glass packaging waste weighs heavy on Garret’s mind and is on the horizon for Resinate’s process.