The Hemp industry is a booming economy that has created lucrative opportunities for farmers and corporations alike, but with an abundance of products leaving the shelves, how does the CBD market contribute to our global waste crisis? There are factors including packaging, (some of which are non-reusable or plastic), the use of tools used to manufacture CBD, as well as plant waste such as stalks and trimmed flowers.
It should be noted that such waste weighed out at over one million tons in 2019 alone, according to CompanyWeek. Given this last number, it is of value to look closer at how green waste is disposed of and what strides the industry is making to reduce this number.
What Happens to Green Waste?
While there are several ways of disposing of green waste, the most common method is via landfills, which is an extremely unsustainable way of getting rid of garbage. The stems and stalks of the flower are considered hazardous, and this limits how they can be discarded. Not to mention, there are strict regulations in place regarding the disposal of plant material (specifically hemp and cannabis), and this makes this much more difficult for companies to recycle material effectively.
Even other hemp industry materials that are considered non-hazardous end up in the landfill along with the hazardous materials. What might come as a great shock to some consumers is what happens during each new growing season. Most large operations do not reuse the groundwater and soil used in the production of hemp as they rotate new crops. This lack of reuse is a continuous financial and ecological issue for both farmers and the environment alike. Given the benefits of the original part of hemp used in CBD products, researchers are trying to find ways to repurpose the rest of the unused hemp material.
How Can Waste Be Reduced?
Researchers have been exploring different avenues to recycle the plant matter that is leftover after CBD is harvested and extracted from the hemp plant. According to a 2017 study, there are possibilities that the material can be refined into a sustainable insecticide to be used in various environments in an eco-friendly manner. This could replace some comparable pesticides used commercially.
Additionally, there is discussion and insight into how hemp leftovers can be used to create biofuel and the development of new energy sources. There are plenty of start-ups beginning to attack this issue at the roots—coming up with new and innovative ways of creating new products out of the plant waste. These companies are mostly in their infancy but are dedicating research and significant funds to finding sustainable ways to recycle all this material. 9Fiber, one of the more notable names in this new industry, has now found ways to use recycled material to create fabrics, compostable plastics, and various construction components. Given the vast amount of wasted product, biomass recycling has become a fruitful business. Luckily, with the help of motivated researchers and big companies who are passionate about finding ways to reuse green waste, it seems as though there might be more solutions to this ecological issue soon.