Los Angeles has a weed problem.
The issue is not with the amount of dank being smoked or the number of dispensaries in the city, but rather the sheer volume of those unmistakable plastic cannabis canisters that end up on the sidewalks, in the sewers, and strewn amid plants. Typically colored a ganja green or a translucent orange – mimicking those that hold pharmacy-issued pills – these pop-top containers are a persistent presence in cities where weed is legal.
The little canisters are a continual collateral menace as weed becomes more mainstream in L.A. and there are no governing policies on how to recycle or reuse them. In the meantime, the cannabis community has come up with some ingenious ways to give these containers new life. You can fill them with quarters for parking or laundry; stock them with spices or daily vitamins; keep all your bobby pins and jewelry in one place; or, if feeling especially ambitious, use the taller containers to plant small herbs.
Material is only recyclable if someone wants to purchase that product and make it into something new.
While cannabis itself is considered organic refuse and can be treated like the leaves and grass you toss in the green bin, understanding how to reuse, and recycle the many types of packaging cannabis is sold in, is a lot more complicated.
For one, a plastic product made from multiple layers and different material types is not recyclable. This means most of those thick plastic or Mylar bags that contain cannabis candies, brownies and other edibles will end up in the landfill – no matter what color bin you put them in. However, while the “exit bags” – which every shop in L.A. is required to issue to customers when they make a purchase – aren’t typically recyclable, they’re not single-use either. Think of these thick to-go bags as you would a reusable grocery bag. According to state regulators, these cases are completely reusable as long as they’re opened correctly and in a way in which they can be resealed.
In general, a material is only recyclable if someone wants to purchase that product and make it into something new, Klug explained, so demand can change dramatically even neighborhood to neighborhood. “What’s recyclable in Los Angeles might not be recyclable in Sacramento,” Klug said.
In Los Angeles, Michael Lee is project manager for blue bin curbside recyclables. He told L.A. Taco that while the city used to be able to recycle all types of plastics – including grocery bags and mixed-used – waning demand from China for these types of materials has drastically reduced what L.A. is able to process and profit from recycling them.
“We used to make a lot of revenue selling these materials to our MRFs [Material Recovery Facility], now we have to pay to process them,” Lee said.
As a result, there’s very few plastic types the city can currently use.
Some weed producers and dispensaries have started thinking creatively.
The system works like this: Whenever you throw something in the blue bin, it’s sent to one of those MRF facilities and sorted. Items smaller than two inches typically fall through the cracks and don’t get recycled, and depending on overseas demand for certain plastics, items may end up in a landfill despite your best intentions.
So flip over that plastic weed canister and on the bottom – as is the case with any plastic material – you’ll find a number surrounded by the three-arrow symbol. While most of these containers may not ultimately make the recycling cut, the City of Los Angeles still urges residents to put any plastic numbered one through seven in the blue bins and let them do the rest.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Haley Fox on L.A. Taco
Published: October 18, 2018
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News