Canadian LP's would rather destroy cannabis waste than re-purpose it

Published Dec 11, 2020 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Skinfaxi

Businesses that are involved with cannabis production generate a considerable amount of waste.

This waste comes in the form of:

  • Air emissions
  • Solid waste
  • Wastewater
  • Plant discards

There are estimates that Canada's cannabis industry will contribute 6000 tons of cannabis waste in 2020. So why do Cannabis producers prefer to destroy cannabis waste rather than to re-purpose the herb? There is insufficient guidance from either the provincial or federal government on the importance of waste management that is specific to the cannabis industry.


Under the rules of the federal Cannabis Regulations and Cannabis Act, cannabis producers have strict requirements for security, licensing, production standards, product quality, and the disposal of any unused data. There is however, an issue with the clarification of the method of destruction. Cannabis must be destroyed by methods that comply with the applicable taxes, municipal and federal laws.

In the process of destroying cannabis, at no time must the public be exposed to the vapours of the burning plant matter. Two witnesses must be in attendance at all times, and records are required to be kept by the cannabis producer for a minimum of two years. The only time management of waste is addressed from the production of marijuana is when the destruction of unused marijuana is discussed.

The destroying of cannabis rather than repurposing cannabis waste may point to a missed opportunity. The cannabis plant parts that cannot be used can be repurposed and used to make other products like hemp items and construction materials. The law as it is today, has cannabis producers in a tight position, as they are unable to repurpose any marijuana parts. Many see this as an unnecessary expense and a total waste.

Looking forward


There are companies throughout Canada that are establishing deals with businesses to handle cannabis waste. These companies see an opportunity for a start-up developing technologies to dispose of cannabis waste. These technologies can dispose of marijuana through a process that results in compostable biomass solids. Completing the process involves extracting water that is clean enough to be reintroduced into the water system of the municipality.

Final words

As higher regulation levels impact the marijuana industry, the environmental impacts are becoming better understood by cannabis producers. A better understanding is achieved, and more clarity on cannabis waste is unveiled. The hope is to incentivize cannabis producers to prioritize sustainability and environmentally sound practices.

The limited guidance of the federal law and the regulations of marijuana waste are the territories and provinces' responsibility with their pre-existing waste management programs. Cannabis producers should seek legal advice when deciding what to do with their cannabis waste. Cannabis producers should also seek legal advice for the recycling and disposal protocols.

Perhaps as the cannabis industry and the by-products from this green market increase, the provincial and federal governments will see the environmental impact and provide the necessary guidance for waste management in the cannabis space.  The repurposing of any product, including the cannabis plant, can only lead to a more environmentally balanced world. Education and understanding is the direction that is needed for a more environmentally friendly living for all of us.

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