There are Environmental Costs to the Cannabis we Consume.

4/20 and Earth Day go together like the Three Sisters (corn, squash, and beans…based on A Sioux Creation story) in the garden. 4/20 has gained even more relevance today, at the expense of Earth Day. We got so swept up in the billions that we are making off of legal cannabis that we ignored the cost to the environment that comes from cannabis production and sales.

Production Costs

peppered20moth1

Pic 1: Famous case of the peppered moth in England. The lighter color of these moths helped them blend in to the trees. As the Industrial Revolution set in, the trees grew soot covered from all of the coal factories. The darker color genetic variation (allele) quickly became the dominant allele for the moths. clean air regulations took the coal soot out of the air and off of the trees, giving the lighter-colored moths the genetic advantage. 

Colorado saw a 1 percent energy usage increase just after recreational cannabis was introduced here. Similar increases happened in Oregon and Washington. It takes millions of gigawatts of power in order to provide the flowers for the new cannabis market. Instead of using the sun and natural weather cycles, our growers here in Colorado have to work much harder to get a lower quality product.

Rows of energy-sucking lights line the ceilings of industrial warehouses throughout Denver with energy costs that can be over up to $2000 per W/m2. According to a 2016 report by EQ Research, the energy consumption of these industrial grows are equal to those put out by massive Data Centers. Industrial Fans have to mimic wind and produce air flow inside the four walls that keep the natural wind from getting in. Rain can patter the tin ceilings as the dready gardeners water the plants.

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Fig 1. proportion of energy use in production facilities.(taken from EQ Research Report “A Chronic Problem; Taming Energy Costs and Impacts from Marijuana Cultivation”.)

This kind of a shock to the infrastructure has utilities seriously considering whether they will have adequate energy for the power grid in the future. Communities like Boulder have enacted carbon taxes to offset the additional environmental costs. California has its own story developing.

Steven D’angelo is the embattled owner of the famous Harbourside Collective in Oakland. He predicts that California will cater to half of the national market. This means a gobload (a whole heckuva lot) of energy consumption will hit the California grid soon (who else remembers the San Diego blackout of 2012?). However, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Michael Picker, said in an interview earlier this year that the state utilities are “expecting flat or declining growth in California, so if it starts to go the other direction, then we’re going to have to make sure that the electricity is there for both these uses (cannabis production) and everybody else”.

This could be a disaster for the already overburdened grid in California that is closing down its last two nuclear reactors within the next ten years. It hasn’t even been a year since California issued a flex alert asking residents to conserve energy. Utility companies met earlier this year, in March, to address these concerns. Fortunately, California has written laws that support massive cannabis farms.

California has a whole litany of other problems that the new regulations will ease, if not sort out completely. They have struggled with guerilla grows in National Forests and First Nation Sacred Lands for decades. Other rogue gardeners grew plots in places that challenge the survival of endangered species. California already has a desperate water problem. Sometimes, gardeners will steal the water from a source that hasn’t been vetted for them to take water from.

Each state has different environmental rules for production facilities because they are so varied. The Federal Government set the bar pretty low with their moldy herbs in Mississippi. The Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division would have shut them down a long time ago.

thumbs-up-obama-good-stuff-what-about-the-retail-side

Retail Consumption

The fat cash that is pouring into these ganja shops creates a tremendous amount of waste. They are pumping out millions of little plastic containers, silicon bottles, and other packages like never before. It is a new form of waste that our communities have to deal with. (That, and fuckers graffitiing our forests!) The packaging issue will only increase as more communities open their doors to cannabis in all of its forms.

There is a mixed message coming from the ganja shops in Denver. Some budtenders say that the city does not recycle the bottles, while others will point to a recycle bin in the corner. Some dispensaries will even offer herbal incentives for bringing them your empty bottles.

recycling_logos

What does the City of Denver recycling program say?

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Smoking containers

Most dispensaries carry recyclable bottles for their flower products. The bottles are usually polypropylene (PP), which is a common plastic that can be recycled. PP is the number 5 or 6 on the bottom of the bottle.

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PP bottle that is recyclable

The industry primarily uses two basic bottle designs. One design is with a removable lid, and the other is with a snapping lid that is attached. The bottles are recyclable for both designs. For the bottles with removable lids, however, the lids have to be removed and thrown in the trash before you can recycle the bottle.

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PP bottle that is recyclable, but the lid is not.

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This bottle AND cap are recyclable!

There are a few dispensaries that use plastic sandwich bags. The bags are not recyclable. Cellophane bags are sometimes used for containers. Green Dragon carries these bags. They are not recyclable either.

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Plastic baggie. Definitely not recyclable

 

cellobag

Cellobaggie (used at Green Dragon) also not recyclable.

Edible Containers

Most edibles are packaged in recyclable containers. Cardboard and clamshell containers are recyclable. The aluminum cans can be recycled as well. Some edibles are packaged in cellophane packages which are not recycled.

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Clamshell container is recyclable

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Cardboard like from Loves Bakery is recyclable!

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Cannabeverage cans are recyclable!

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Cellophane (like these Edipure Gummies) are not recyclable!

Concentrate Containers

The shatter containers are not recyclable. At all. There are some PP types out there, but most people like the containers that are made out of polyethylene. They are Styrofoam 2.0. Dabs are ganja 198.6. It is clear that dabs are the future of cannabis. Hilary Clinton has dabbed. Dabs have been on the Today Show, and they are in 2016 pictures with Paul Ryan. Well, maybe they weren’t actually dabbing, but you had better believe that move is an endorsement of the act of dabbing. (Transitive property says that they endorse the herbs.) These little Styrofoam containers will be a bigger and bigger problem as their environmental impact becomes more pronounced.Picture1.png

The second coming of Styrofoam! NOT RECYCLABLE

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The only recyclable dab containers out there

The silicone dab containers are not recyclable. They do have other lives that they can live, however. I reached out to a company that recycles sex toys (yup, that’s a thing) to see if they would take these little containers. No comment as of this writing. Sans second generation dildos, there is another great way to recycle these silicone containers. Art. Get a bunch of those containers, put ‘em through a meat grinder, and glue those vivid colors to the canvas. You could probably pick up enough containers at civic center park after the 4/20 festivities to put a mural on a wall.

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Not recyclable, but you are stoners, make me proud and get creative!

Happy 4/20 and Happy Earth Day! As we enter the cannabis era, remember that the only way to win in Capitalism is civil disobedience. Your pocketbook will tell the dispensary owner how well they are doing. If you dab, then demand recyclable containers. If you smoke, then there are plenty of places that use recyclable bottles and are glad to take your money! Love to our Mother! I’m out!

dabs

dab haircuthillary-clinton-dab-meme-template-when-youre-on-live-tv-and-youre-suppost-to-act-professional-but-yoScreen Shot 2017-04-18 at 3.52.44 PMreid_122715Panthers-dab

Paul Ryan “knows what a dab is”: (48 seconds, Ed)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KWeQeaB4c8

References:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-plastic-from-plants-good-for-the-environment-or-bad/
silicone recycling sex toys!
http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/recycling/stories/how-to-dispose-of-8-odd-seemingly-difficult-to-recycle-items
art project silicone recycling

polypropolene
https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Lifecycle-of-a-Plastic-Product/
https://www.thebalance.com/an-overview-of-polypropylene-recycling-2877863
http://www.brighthub.com/environment/green-living/articles/107380.aspx
https://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/Recycling-by-the-numbers.html

http://www.cpr.org/news/story/how-much-electricity-does-it-take-grow-marijuana-colo-cities-are-finding-out

[1] http://www.cpr.org/news/story/how-much-electricity-does-it-take-grow-marijuana-colo-cities-are-finding-out

[1] http://www.bouldercounty.org/env/sustainability/pages/mjimpactoffset.aspx

[1] http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2017/03/02/california-power-grid-marijuana.html

[1] http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/california-electricity-shortage-issues/

[1] https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/rat-poison-marijuana-farms-killing-increased-numbers-rare-forest-mammal/

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/california-s-50-000-pot-farms-are-sucking-rivers-dry/

[1] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/scientists-say-governments-pot-farm-moldy-samples-no-guidelines/

[1] http://www.thecannabist.co/2015/12/07/pot-pesticides-marijuana/44740/

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2 thoughts on “There are Environmental Costs to the Cannabis we Consume.

  1. Glad somebody is pointing this out. Ganja is great & all, but it always has bugged me how much waste is involved, not only with the packaging but also on the grow end. I’d like to think those who grow the herb are somewhat in tune with the Earth, but an ambitious industrial capitalist couldn’t give a fuck, hopefully more people will demand the better alternatives out there.

    Liked by 1 person

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