Cannabis retailers are shifting their focus from shelf-presence to brand identity.

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To say the cannabis industry has experienced change over the past few years would be a serious understatement. Every element — from growth engineering and legalization to marketing and delivery — seems to be witnessing a revolution.

However, cannabis packaging is undergoing one of the most significant changes. As cannabis products receive more mainstream attention, retailers and packaging organizations are shifting their focus from mere shelf-presence to brand identity. 

The identity shift began with simple changes like moving from stereotypical Rastafarian images to more sophisticated and elegant colors, images, and design. Then the shift became more substantive and environmental responsibility emerged as an important element of brand identity. That shift shouldn’t be surprising, considering that the industry has long struggled to balance pollution concerns against packaging mandates that require many layers of plastic.

More and more companies are recognizing the destructive irony of wrapping a quarter gram of a natural and medicinal healing product like cannabis with 15 grams of plastic.

Bio-Circular Solutions

The good news is, like in many other industries, rapid innovation is helping to solve this problem. And like every other industry, environmentally-conscious solutions that are also financially viable are evolving.

Reclaiming plastic that is stranded in the ocean and rerouting it to the proper waste stream is a noble and effective solution. Some companies are going one step further to reintroduce this reclaimed plastic into the marketplace. Some companies in the cannabis industry are going even further by implementing bio-circular solutions.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines the concept as “a restorative, regenerative model where nothing is lost and everything feeds a new cycle.” 

Marijuana and hemp waste are now being used to produce reusable packaging solutions for cannabis products. These innovative plant-based packaging options are becoming increasingly available at price points that are comparable to those of traditional and less sustainable varieties. 

One Company Making Bio-Circular Packaging Happen

One company on a bio-circular mission is Sana Packaging. Sana is driven by the concept that “Ultimately, plant-based materials made from rapidly renewable and regenerative resources are what should be used for single-use products, like packaging.” 

The company sees hemp as the “ideal feedstock for bioplastic packaging” because of its rapid growth cycle, hardiness, and versatility. Customers can even recycle the packaging at local cannabis dispensaries where hemp recycling is permitted by law.

According to James Eichner, Sana’s co-founder & chief strategy officer, “While the materials we use put our brand on the map, our goal is to affect broader systemic change in cannabis packaging and waste management as we strive towards circularity.”

The Path Toward Bio-Circular

Today’s consumer is paying attention to corporate responsibility. That consumer appreciates a brand that cares about minimizing its environmental footprint. In today’s tumultuous and competitive environment, demonstrating  your brand as a positive environmental change-agent is critical. It’s not about if your organization will be environmentally conscious, but how it will contribute to the greater good. 

Cannabis cultivators and processors are working to remove barriers like legal requirements to destroy cannabis during waste disposal. As legislation continues to evolve and supply chains approach economies of scale, bio-circular packaging options will become a mainstream practice. Brands who pioneer innovative and environmentally-responsible bio-circular packaging solutions will see the cost of goods sold decline significantly. Although that cost differential could very well be the deciding factor between profit and loss, the more valuable outcome may very well be the brand loyalty and appeal that is generated with today’s consumer.

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