Recycling cannabis plastic waste doesn’t necessarily happen. You might think you’re recycling that wasteful plastic container by throwing it in a blue bin. But most cannabis containers are low-grade plastic waste. Odds are, this plastic will end up in a landfill or head overseas where it’s incinerated.

But one Edmonton man is putting an end to that.

When covid lockdowns sent Corey Saban home from work, the father of three realized how much plastic his family went through. He decided to do something about it and started a recycling company out of his garage.

“I really just started experimenting with single-use grocery bags in my garage with a griddle you make pancakes on and an iron that you iron your clothes with,” says Saban.

Introducing [Re] Waste

While still in his garage, Saban landed a contract with the city of Beaumont to recycle the city’s residential plastic waste. “That’s when a few news stations like CBC, CTV, and Global picked up our story,” says Saban.

After some media attention, the cannabis industry got involved.

Saban has partnered with two Canadian cannabis retailers. Nova Cannabis, the parent company of Value Buds, and High Tide, the parent company of Canna Cabana. Both companies are the largest retailers in the country.

“I told them,” says Saban, “I’m pretty straightforward; I just said I’m still in my garage. I’d love to move out and be able to manage all your stores and continue to grow with you. So it’ll take a little on my end to get up and running, but if you’re okay with that, then we can definitely look at launching a program.”

Months later, Saban was out of the garage and over by the Edmonton International Airport with a facility of his own and four full-time employees. “At the start, it was like “there’s no way we’re ever going to exceed a team of three people,” and that was quickly exceeded. And then with the space that we had, we were like “we’re never going to outgrow this, there’s no way,” and now we’ve outgrown that space.”

Recycling Cannabis Plastic Waste

[Re] Waste works with cannabis retailers to develop customized solutions to their plastic waste. Saban will ask, “How can we repurpose plastic waste to make it useful in your industry or that you can use in your business?” For cannabis retailers, the answers range from shelving to display cases to consumption accessories.

[Re] Waste is behind the “canna bin,” a collection bin made from 100% recycled cannabis containers. By collecting unwanted cannabis containers, Saban hopes to keep plastics out of the landfills.

He says one major problem is that many cannabis plastics are low-grade plastics. And the supply chain isn’t equipped for recycled plastics.

“If you look at mass manufacturers that are producing millions of units of plastic products, they need a very consistent plastic which is most often virgin plastic pellets. So now, when you work with recycled pellets, it’s a little more complicated. There’s not as much consistency as virgin plastic. In the supply chain, recycled plastics are hard to work with.”

Recycling Cannabis Plastic Waste
The Canna Bin

Consumers Want To Recycle Cannabis Plastic Waste

Most, if not all, cannabis consumers are annoyed at the amount of plastic waste the legal industry has brought. It’s clear consumers want a better solution. Recycling cannabis plastic waste is a top concern. “We’re starting to see how customers vote with their dollars,” says Saban.

“It’s interesting just being in the cannabis space… consumers are so passionate about the environment, and their voice is heard because it’s such a new industry, and there’s so many of them. So it’s really the consumers that are going to the retailers to say, “I have a bag full of plastic waste that I know is just going into the landfill. I need you to help me out. I need you to do something.” So it’s really the retailers that are starting to listen to the customers. They just want their plastic waste handled better than the existing options.”

In the first year of legalization, Canada’s cannabis industry generated 6.4 million kilograms of plastic packaging waste.

Working with Goodwill

Recycling cannabis plastic waste isn’t just helping the environment. They’re giving back to the community as well. Saban has been working with Goodwill by participating in their careers connection program.

“We work with Goodwill to provide those with different abilities with opportunities for employment. We have four amazing volunteers right now through the career connection program. And specifically, what we have these volunteers doing is removing the seals from all the cannabis lids. It’s not like paper. It’s really on there, we have them remove the seals from the lids, and then we can take that and go right into our processing. So they are very involved with the success of our cannabis program.”

[RE] Waste also works with Goodwill to reduce its plastic waste. [Re] Work repurposes the plastic into building materials like countertops and trim.

Look for a canna bin at your local cannabis shop today!