What happens to cannabis scraps?

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After plants have been cured and trimmed, there remains a large mound of natural cannabis scraps to deal with

Much time, money and thought go into exactly what to do with marijuana buds once they are ripe for the picking. There are ever-evolving methods of extraction, and always a new and exciting way to consume cannabis.

But the THC rich buds, or flower, are a small fraction of the towering cannabis plant.

After plants have been cured and trimmed, there remains a large mound of natural cannabis scraps to deal with. Way back in the olden days of cannabis cultivation, the remnants could have been added to a compost pile or burned eliminated in a controlled burn. But those unregulated days are a thing of the past.

In today’s legal and highly regulated market, a grower can’t just toss cannabis scraps into the back of the greenhouse. That being the case, what happens to the part of the marijuana plant that doesn’t get a person high?

What is cannabis waste, exactly?

Many may picture cannabis waste as a tidy mound of plant stalks and unusable leaves. Though this does make up a large portion of the waste, there are also other forms of waste that can be a bit trickier and less green.

“Cannabis waste can be any material that has come in contact with cannabis throughout the cultivation, production, manufacturing or retail process,” according to EcoWaste, a cannabis waste disposal service.

There are the sponges and chemicals used to clone and propagate plants, there are other unused products and there are used testing samples. This hodgepodge of marijuana waste raises proper disposal questions.

Weed waste requires strict record-keeping 

Perhaps, a grower lives in a place where trash pickup is a bit of a pain, including having to separate items or even having to bring waste all the way to a recycling facility. Keeping records of everything that is thrown away is, essentially, what most farm managers are responsible for at their facilities. There must be documented proof that the waste has, indeed, been completely and properly disposed of.

“Unlike other agricultural industries, cannabis growers in most areas must keep exhaustive records of every ounce of material they discard,” notes an article in BioCycle, a resource for organic recycling and composting.

Some laws in the U.S. are so strict and exact that “some jurisdictions require that each plant get its own identification and tracking tag, or that senior managers from the producer accompany the wastes to any external disposal site.”

BioCycle also points out how some U.S. states require video footage of cannabis waste areas be held for up to 90 days so as to prove there is no discrepancy between written records and video proof. Needless to say, this is not a typical trip to the dump.

Composting is best, but is sometimes a complicated option

Composting cannabis waste is often the best option for the environment and growers alike. The problem is, simply throwing cannabis waste into a compost pile and walking away is not alright.

Beyond proper documentation, the cannabis waste needs to be ground, chopped and mixed with non-weed waste to ensure it no longer resembles anything that could be sold as a cannabis product.

In fact, according to Green Mountain Technologies, “Many state regulations for the disposal of cannabis waste require the cannabis to be mixed at least 50 per cent-50 per cent by volume with non-cannabis waste in order to render the cannabis waste unusable.”

Once this mixture is achieved, though, there is still the need to find a suitable facility to take the compostable waste. This can be an adventure in and of itself.

There are, however, other disposal methods, including the following:

Bokashi process

The Bokashi process is another compost-style method of recycling cannabis scraps, but involves using a vessel, an organic additive and time. The process was invented in Japan in the 1980s, and, like composting, is a natural way of breaking down organic materials and turning them into a re-usable substance.

According to The Spruce, “Unlike traditional composting, which is an aerobic process that requires oxygen, Bokashi is an anaerobic process that requires that you isolate the materials from oxygen as much as possible.”

This is an organic process fit for smaller operations. For those with very large growing facilities, it would involve a large investment to build vessels large enough to get rid of all the organic waste.

Cannabis disposal companies

As the cannabis industry continues to boom, all industries surrounding it are also growing and expanding — this even includes the waste treatment sector.

All over the U.S. and Canada, small and large businesses are forming to help deal with cannabis waste removal. Some of these businesses focus on logistics and ease of surface, while others are focused on the organic route, with the goal being to lower the cannabis industry’s carbon footprint.

This is still a new frontier and as the cannabis industry grows, and regulations that come with a legal cannabis market develop, these disposal companies are likely to multiply.

Landfills

While the last place someone would expect or want cannabis waste to end up is in a landfill taking up space. Still, in the U.S., this is a legal option and potential final resting place for cannabis scraps.

Sure, many growers are environmentally friendly at heart, but the fact remains that there is no incentive apart from one’s own views to compost cannabis rather than send it to a landfill. In fact, there are a few reasons cannabis is more likely to end up in a landfill than a compost facility.

For one, landfills are often more accessible than compost facilities. This means, logistically, landfills are a much easier option for some companies.

It is also important to note that cannabis waste can only be composted if it is mixed with equally organic materials, such as dirt, grass or other organic waste.

While this might be no problem for a large outdoor growing farm in a moderate climate, organic waste might be tougher to come by in the middle of the winter for an indoor growing operation.

Cannabis disposal facilities offer an alternative to landfills, but they are not currently as prevalent an option.

 

Region: North America