I am an avid recycler and try to live a sustainable life. When I buy cannabis it comes in either a # 5 polypropylene container or a mylar and paper bag. Looking at the total carbon footprint of both packaging options, which one is the least bad packaging? -Board
Spoiler alert: they both suck. But first I want to tell you a story.
One of the downsides to marijuana legalization was that what was once sexy and transgressive has been pared down by the loggers of bureaucracy to a joyless slog with the mischievous charm of a zoning hearing.
That said, Oregon law requires that retail cannabis containers be both child-resistant and (in most cases) resealable. A big task – but don’t worry! The Oregon Liquor Control Commission helpfully prepared a 72-page form of cannabis packaging products that have been pre-approved as these administrative requirements. Groovy, right?
So you’ve got stuck with all that plastic, although both you and the weed producers would likely prefer next-generation compostable packaging made from jute fiber and woven dog hair.
It is thanks to a number of packaging manufacturers that they have succeeded in making child-resistant containers out of cardboard. However, most child-safe designs still use the same good old, bad old, supposedly recyclable plastic that all of our other consumer products are made from.
You saw it coming: none of the containers you mentioned are recyclable. The # 5 polypropylenes are below Metro’s 6 ounce minimum plastic container capacity, and Mylar is not recyclable at all. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter, at least not so much – not because we’re all going to be dead soon (though we will), but because plastic recycling is and was largely a farce.
Plastics with numbers above 2 are rarely recycled. These triangular numbers were invented by industry * to help protect the environment – as long as we believe plastic is recycled, we don’t feel guilty about using more of it.
Sure, it would be nice if they felt good: “At some point this old margarine tub will turn into a shiny new bike!” Plastic advertisements were real. (Imagine they were reformulated for the era of decriminalization: “One day that old weed bin will be a shiny new heroin syringe!”) But the real answer is to use less plastic in the first place. You know what that means: it’s time to buy weed in bulk!
* In an era of fabricated conspiracy theories, I should make it clear that this plan was documented in an investigation by National Public Radio and Pro Publica last year.
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