Washington’s Pot Industry Has A Huge Waste Problem

When it comes to legal pot, there are quite a few numbers that might come to mind, like tax revenue generated by pot sales, or statistics related to changes in crime rates after legalization. But there is one number that is often overlooked: 1.7 million pounds.

No, those pounds aren’t in cannabis-but wouldn’t it be nice if they were? What we’re talking about are 1.7 million pounds of plant waste that is ending up in Washington area landfills since 2014. This plant waste is compostable, but somehow still ends up creating a nasty waste problem for the legal pot industry. It’s easy to figure out how much waste is produced, as state law mandates that this waste be tracked down to the nearest gram. The problem lies in finding out where this compostable matter is going. Neither the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board nor the Department of Ecology keep any kind of records about where this plant waste goes.

Interviews with waste management and industrial composting companies in Spokane, Thurston, King, and Snohomish Counties revealed to this Washington resident that composting companies don’t see much cannabis-related plant waste coming through their facilities. All of this material is going straight into a landfill.

Industrial composting, for those unfamiliar with it, is far more environmentally sound as the act of composting breaks down compostable materials into usable soil. When these materials end up in landfills, decomposition takes substantially longer.

Most of these facilities would be glad to accept the business of cannabis companies. However, one industrial composting company, Green Earth Technology, follows a strict policy of turning away anything having to do with pot. Whathom County had produced 215,000 pounds of cannabis plant waste in 2016, but since Green Earth Technology is their local composter, they were instructed by county officials to just put all of that compostable plant material into the garbage.

Industrial composters are reaching out to cannabis generators to let them know that composting their plant waste is indeed an option, and to educate them about the process itself.

Photo by Salim Virji


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