California’s regulations for child-resistant packaging—at least with cannabis-infused products like edibles and topicals—make it nearly impossible to stay sustainable. According to Dr. Kerklaan of the cannabis topicals company Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics, they’re one hundred percent behind sustainable packaging, but said their company “can’t make it happen with the current regulations.”
An anonymous industry source also weighed in: “Unfortunately, it’s not a topic that a lot of companies want to talk about, because they’re aware of the environmental implications…” Some of the cannabis industry’s biggest environmental offenders are the manufacturers of “disposable vapes.” While many of these products look cool and sleek, and are a hit with consumers who want to covertly self-medicate, they can’t be refilled—or recycled.
You don’t have to look far to find companies who are selling disposable vape pens like hot cakes. Unfortunately, many of these products will ultimately end up in a landfill. This is where purchasing power comes into play. As a consumer, where you spend your money informs companies as to where they should spend their research and development bucks.
Curiously, many of these products don’t list what materials they’re made from. Just as many of us have demanded to know what’s inside of our cartridges we too should have the option of knowing what materials our vape pens are made from. While the external shell of some disposable vapes are made from aluminum and can theoretically be recycled like soda cans, each one also most likely contains an internal lithium ion battery that provides power to the atomizer. Lithium batteries, of course, should always be recycled separately.
It is unknown at press time which waste management companies are willing to recycle disposable vapes. Conscientious consumers should inquire with their local recycling company if they live in a state where marijuana is legal. (Nobody wants to get busted for pot for trying to recycle a vape pen.)
Buying a reusable, refillable vape pen is a far better option for those who are conscious of the environment and want to reduce their carbon footprint. Another alternative course of action is to call on cannabis companies to implement a disposable vape return program, similar to how Apple accepts dead computers for recycling. It’s a challenge to come up with an alternative use for a spent vape pen. Perhaps a robot dog could play fetch with it? An enterprising artist can collect and build them into a sculpture at Burning Man?
COLORS Magazine once stated that the number of disposed chopsticks each year, if placed end to end, would circle the globe twice. Hey, at least the wooden ones are biodegradable! Disposable vapes may not be far behind that figure, and pollute the planet for centuries to come.