For quite a while, cannabis cultivators relied on plastic in their operations. Despite being colloquially known as “weed,” high-quality cannabis requires specific conditions during certain growth periods for maximum growth. In the past, hemp and cannabis cultivators, especially those that employed outdoor grows, have used plastics to fight weeds, pot plants, and construct trellises. Many of them are now turning away from plastics in favor of ecofriendly alternatives.
Plastics now permeate nearly every facet of the environment. A new report from the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization shows that microplastics aren’t just choking our oceans and seas, they are in the ground as well. In fact, the U.S. warns, the land used to grow food and other consumer products is polluted with more plastics than even the oceans. Some marijuana cultivators are guilty of contributing to this pollution, which not only damages the environment but also presents a significant risk to food security and human health.
So how are hemp and marijuana growers reducing their reliance on plastics? For starters, they are foregoing plastic pots and trellis netting to cultivate their crop in growing beds. While plastic pots can be reused and recycled, they eventually have to be replaced, says Julia Jacobson, CEO of Oakland-based cannabis producer Aster Farms. Growing beds are a much better option, she says, because they can be installed virtually anywhere and reduce the number of plastic pots growers use. Furthermore, they give plants much more room to spread out and grow.
Trellis netting, which is used to space plants for better airflow and flower growth, as well as to protect the plants against mold and bud rot, contributes to a lot of plastic waste. It is rarely reused, she says, and tends to be shaped in a way that can be particularly harmful to sea life if it ends up in the oceans. As such, Aster Farms uses a compostable alternative. Cannabis cultivators could also move away from the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes and polyethylene drip tubes and emitters, and lay flat tubing that they use for in-field drip irrigation, says Brandon Rivers, the founder and president of SLO Hemp Co.
Employing drip irrigation systems with flood, ditch or center pivot irrigation would be a great way for cultivators to reduce their plastic use, Rivers says. According to the new UN report, banning certain products and plastic polymers and setting penalties for their use can also help reduce plastic use among marijuana cultivators. However, that doesn’t seem plausible with America’s current political climate.
Consumers may be the ones to lead change this time. By choosing to spend their hard-earned money on sustainably grown cannabis products, they will ultimately drive demand for ecofriendly products. And companies such as BevCanna Enterprises Inc. (CSE: BEV) (OTCQB: BVNNF) (FSE: 7BC) are rising to the challenge in order to boost the ecofriendly credentials of the cannabis value chain.
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