Today’s pre roll scene is constantly evolving. In this month’s edition of Roll With Us, we’ll demonstrate how pre roll packaging is changing too by covering the main varieties of pre roll packaging materials available in the market today.
It’s time to cut through the marketing and examine how eco-friendly these materials really are.
“81% of global consumers believe that companies should take steps to improve the environment.” – Nielsen
In the current market, pre roll packaging falls into one of the following categories:
With the negative realities of pollution and climate change resting firmly on the modern consumer’s mind, eco-friendly packaging materials can help companies reduce their footprint, set their brand apart, create more positive associations with their product, and give their product a unique selling proposition for eco-conscious consumers.
Without further ado, here’s Roll With Us’ guide on your best options for eco-friendly pre roll packaging.
“An estimated 35% of landfills are populated by packaging materials.”
Overwhelmingly, the most widespread material used in packaging pre rolls is also the most damaging to the environment: plastic.
Virgin or unrecycled plastic is the biggest offender landfill-wise. This type of pre roll packaging often ends up in your local dispensaries in the form of highly popular plastic ‘pop-tops.’
Packaging materials (most commonly plastic or paper) makes up an estimated 35% of landfills, an estimated loss of about $11.4 billion (EPA). Many brands are beginning to realize that plastic pop-tops are becoming serious contributors to that statistic.
Brands looking to communicate environmentally friendly values have begun transitioning towards eco-friendly options- plastic-free, recyclable, or biodegradable plastic packaging. These alternatives can help brands rethink their packaging footprint and offset their contribution towards landfills and more broadly, pollution and climate change in general.
This transition is still in its early stages, however, and brands looking to stand out can still contrast their recyclable packaging with the landfill-destined packaging used by a majority of products on the shelf today.
Hemp packaging is a no-brainer for most in the Cannabis industry. Why? Because Hemp’s scientific name is Cannabis Sativa– the same as smokable marijuana, but with significantly less THC.
But it isn’t just that. Hemp is an extremely biodegradable and sustainable material attractive to consumers looking for more organic and consciously packaged products to support. Hemp has been used as a manufacturing material for a variety of purposes historically and is gaining more steam recently as hemp has been turned into a viable bioplastic.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to hemp packaging is its appearance- which tends to look rough and rustic compared to plastic.
Ocean-reclaimed plastic’s popularity is relatively recent and comes off the heels of documentaries such as “Seaspiracy” on Netflix highlighting the amount of plastic waste currently floating in the ocean. Much of this plastic is essentially non-biodegradable and will slowly break down into the infamous “microplastics” currently wreaking havoc on global marine ecosystems.
The answer for many brands is to switch up their plastic packaging for ocean-reclaimed plastic.
The biggest issue with ocean-reclaimed plastic is blatantly obvious- the plastic itself, though reclaimed from the ocean, is no more biodegradable than before when it was first discarded. It’s also commonly manufactured using anywhere from 25% to 75% virgin plastic.
Due to this fundamental issue, ocean-reclaimed packaging is likely destined for the same landfill or to end up floating in the same ocean we know and love- as its no more biodegradable than before and perpetuates the use of virgin plastic.
Cleaning up and reusing these non-biodegradable plastics is undoubtedly a necessity, as no one wants plastic waste floating in the ocean. But ocean-reclaimed plastic, though cleaning up the ocean in one sense, is similar to “kicking the can down the road” as its plastic will still end up in a landfill at some point in its future.
While most companies require a significant percentage of virgin plastic to bind their ocean-reclaimed plastic together, SC Johnson recently created a proprietary technique for 100% ocean-reclaimed plastic packaging, which is a big step in the right direction. But, once again, it does not solve the overarching problem with the material itself being nonbiodegradable.
“The environmental appeal of aluminum is due primarily to its recyclability. In addition to being 100% recyclable, aluminum can also be recycled indefinitely without a significant reduction in quality.”
Aluminum packaging is another upstart in the pre roll scene, but definitely not new to packaging. Common aluminum cans are an extremely popular use of this material, and many would be surprised to learn that aluminum is one of the most eco-friendly and recyclable materials out there today.
Compared to plastics, aluminum does not ‘downcycle,’ meaning the material quality and recyclability does not degrade with each recycling process. In plastic, this would typically require more virgin plastic to make up any difference in quality lost due to downcycling.
The disparity is staggering when considering the recyclability of aluminum. “Almost 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today,” according to the Aluminum Association. “By contrast, only 9% of plastics ever produced have been through the recycling process.”
Part of the reason behind this great disparity is energy consumption for the recycling process. “Unlike plastic packaging, aluminum products do not need to undergo complicated sorting before recycling. Additionally, the energy consumed during the aluminum recycling process is significantly less than that for plastics, leading to lower recycling costs and reduced carbon emissions” (Aluminum Association, Thyssen Krup).
All in all, aluminum packaging is a widely available, food-safe and environmentally friendly way to package your pre rolls and keep them fresh.
“The greatest strength of tinplate is its incredible recyclability.”
Another highly recyclable metal is tin. How recyclable is it? “In Germany, the material has consistently exceeded all required recycling rates for 10 years. In 2018, a whopping 90.4 percent of the tinplate used as packaging material in Germany was recycled – in Europe the figure was 82.5 percent. This makes tinplate the recycling champion among packaging materials.”
90.4% is quite high for packaging materials, making tin quite similar to aluminum in terms of recyclability.
Another bonus of tin packaging is that it is often more reusable than plastic as well, with vintage tins lasting decades and ending up as collector items due to their longevity. Who knows, hold onto your tin packaging long enough and it could be worth a lot more in the future!
If brands value the environment, there are many alternatives to virgin plastic out there to package your pre rolls in. It’s up to brands to decide on what is best and most suitable for their product while balancing the needs of the environment and sustainability. Thanks for joining us on this deep dive into pre roll packaging.
Join us next month for more pre roll news!
We made the infographic below to highlight the main points: