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How to Recycle Cannabis Packaging

Tips for recycling recreational cannabis packaging in Ontario

Image showing cannabis packaging inside the shipping box used by OCS.

Good news: most cannabis packaging can be recycled. Although there is growing concern from our customers regarding the amount of plastic used in legal recreational cannabis packaging, there are many options available to help keep it out of the landfill. Read on to learn why recreational packaging seems excessive and what you can do to combat excess waste.

Why is there so much packaging?

To protect against accidental consumption, ensure products are not appealing to children or youth, and to provide the consumer with the necessary information to make informed decisions, Licensed Producers must adhere to stringent packaging and labelling requirements enforced by the Federal Cannabis Act and Health Canada.

The Federal Cannabis Act specifies that cannabis must be packaged in containers that are:

  • Opaque or semi-transparent
  • Tamper-evident and child-resistant
  • Designed to prevent contamination and keep cannabis dry

These specific requirements make it difficult to use biodegradable materials that can fulfill all the necessary criteria.

Health Canada also has strict requirements for the information displayed on cannabis labels. Each Licensed Producer is responsible for producing packaging that includes: mandatory health warnings, a standardized cannabis symbol, and specific information about the product. Unfortunately, these stringent requirements result in the mandatory inclusion of bulky and excess packaging, regardless of the quantity of the product ordered.

To learn more about the legal requirements for cannabis packaging, click here.

Can I recycle my cannabis packaging?

Depending on where you live, most cannabis packaging can be recycled in your curbside recycling program or at your local recycling depot.

Cannabis products come packaged in a variety of formats including sealable envelopes, plastic jars, tubes and boxes. To determine the type of plastic used in your cannabis packaging, and whether it can be recycled, check the bottom of the container for a code displayed within the recycling symbol.

Curbside recycling programs vary between municipalities. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your local program’s restrictions and requirements. The most commonly used plastics in cannabis packaging are:

Image of chart displaying the most commonly used plastics in cannabis packaging

Can I send back cannabis packaging to be reused or refilled?

Unfortunately, no. Federal regulations require cannabis products to be securely packaged by licensed producers and sealed with an excise stamp before being delivered to the OCS. Therefore, we are currently unable to refill or reuse cannabis packaging. 

What can I do with products that can’t be traditionally recycled?

There are recycling programs that specialize in non-recyclable waste (such as Terracycle) that accept cannabis packaging from Licensed Producers. Once collected, packaging is then cleaned and repurposed into new recycled products.

Can the OCS shipping and packaging boxes be recycled?

We make sure that whenever possible, we choose shipping materials that can be re-used or recycled. The following items can be recycled when you receive your shipment:

  • OCS branded carboard boxes
  • Packing paper
  • Packing slip

We sometimes use padded bubble mailers as added protection to prevent the product from shaking around during shipping. Although the padded envelopes can’t be recycled as-is, you can separate the paper from the plastic lining and then recycle the paper or re-use for other purposes.

Although recreational packaging may seem excessive, it’s designed to provide the customer with necessary product information and added safety features. When receiving your shipment from OCS, become familiar with what can and can’t be recycled in your curbside recycling program and any non-traditional options that are available to help cut back on unnecessary waste.

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