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The Truth About the Recyclability of Doob Tubes—   And How Your Brand Can Promote Sustainability in The Pre-roll Industry

The Truth About the Recyclability of Doob Tubes— And How Your Brand Can Promote Sustainability in The Pre-roll Industry

Nov 2nd 2022

For an industry that’s colloquially referred to as a “green” one, there’s a very un-green reality of the cannabis industry: plastic waste. This issue is innate to the industry in part because of varying state regulations that require ample child-proof packaging and in part because of heavy competition. With limited shelf space and an ever-increasing crowded cannabis market, brands inevitably spend more on extra packaging to catch a shopper’s eye. 
 
But that may not be the best use of a business’s budget. Recent data shows that shoppers in general are willing to spend more on a product backed by a brand with sustainable practices. Meaning, brands that spend more to use less packaging have a major opportunity to increase their bottom line while decreasing their footprint. 
 
If your business hasn’t replaced its plastic packaging with a more sustainable option, now’s the time. Get started with one of the most popular product segments in both the US and Canadian markets—pre-rolls. Perhaps unsurprisingly, pre-rolls are becoming a part of many cannabis smokers' regular routines— especially individually packaged joints and blunts in doob tubes. Many consumers who enjoy the convenience of single or two-pack joints might also be willing to pay more for a more sustainable option. And some locales, such as New Jersey, even require that businesses “in good faith” sell only biodegradable items. Offering a biodegradable option, however, means little if the item is not also compostable. But before we look at the more sustainable pre-roll packaging options that are available, let’s take a deep dive into the lifecycle of the common doob tube.  

THE LIFESPAN OF YOUR CURRENT PLASTIC DISPENSARY PRE-ROLL PACKAGING

Whether your dispensary pre-roll packaging is recyclable, biodegradable, or a combo of the two, there are some limitations to using plastic tubes you may not be aware of, which could impact consumer desirability for your brand. This is becoming even more true as the generation aging into the legal market continues to include a larger portion of Gen Z, a more eco-conscious demographic. 

Recycle image

Recyclable Pre-Roll Packaging Tubes: A Matter of Recoverability

Most pre-roll packaging, AKA “doob tubes,” are made with polypropylene, the #5 plastic that is technically recyclable, though it often doesn’t make it that far. Because of the slim tubular shape of pre-roll packaging, many doob tubes actually fall through or between the belts and gears of recycling sorting machines and into the general trash pile, making them unrecoverable for recycling despite their recyclable material.  


There are also local limitations to recycling pre-roll packaging. If you’re in Colorado, for example, recycling centers won’t touch anything that’s held marijuana products because of the plant’s Schedule I status. Like the federal government, they consider it to be drug contraband, so all cannabis containers are sent straight to the landfill. 
 
Likewise, Seattle’s Public Utilities website specifically states that any plastic packaging with a lid smaller than three inches in diameter—essentially all pre-roll packaging tubes—must be thrown in the garbage and cannot be recycled regardless of the material. While this is a hyper-local example to Washington, it’s applicable to many areas because most have similar recycling sorting machines that can’t handle plastic lids or any plastic items smaller than three inches, as they inevitably get sorted out.

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3 POTENTIAL OPTIONS FOR REUSING PLASTIC PRE-ROLL PACKAGING TUBES

There are some valid options to create a second life for your company’s dispensary pre-roll packaging. Not only are they better for the planet, but they speak directly to younger consumers who expect the brands they support to have eco-friendly initiatives. And those consumers are aging into the market by the day. 

High 5 Recycling Initiative

High five Recycling Initiative Logo

The High 5 Recycling Initiative in Maryland created a landfill diversion path for dispensaries’ #5 plastic packaging, AKA polypropylene or what most doob tubes are made of. Dispensaries can sign up as collection sites where consumers can drop off all of their #5 plastic packaging. High 5 volunteers then collect it and personally transport it to a processing center where it’s processed into a raw material that local manufacturers can use. 

Resynergi Waste to Fuel Program

In California, some dispensaries and cultivators have partnered with waste solutions company Resynergi to repurpose plastic cannabis packaging. The dispensaries collect used plastic packaging from their customers, often incentivized by rewards points, and then turn it over to Resynergi. From there, Resynergi turns the plastic into diesel fuel that the dispensaries then use to power their delivery vehicles. 

Encourage Consumers To Repurpose Their Packaging

For companies in areas without viable recycling options, many are choosing to incorporate packaging reuse ideas into their marketing, attracting younger consumers while educating older ones. For example, jars can be repurposed as planters or storage containers, and plastic bags can be reused when shopping or as toiletry storage when traveling. 
 
Unfortunately, pre-roll packaging tubes are small and uniquely shaped, so there aren’t many reuse options. Customers can use them to store their own hand-rolled joints, or they could potentially work as a bud vase, as a mint holder for a purse or pocket, or something similar. They could also be used for organizing small items stored around the office or household, such as tacks, paper clips, craft supplies, etc. 

The Better Choice: Compostable Pre-Roll Packaging Tubes

The bottom line is plastic dispensary pre-roll packaging is not sustainable. It’s not sustainable in the environmental sense because, regardless of its biodegradability or recyclability, it usually ends up in a landfill anyway. And it’s not sustainable in the business sense because shoppers prioritize eco-friendly brands above others. This is why it is so crucial to offer your customers an option that they can buy guilt-free, knowing their pop-top packaging won’t end up in a landfill. 
 
Fortunately, instead of trying to organize a new recycling initiative in your area or scouring the internet for ideas on consumers can reuse your packaging, there’s an even better option—home-compostable doob tubes. 
 
“Compostable” differs from “biodegradable” because it means the item is made of organic material, so when it decomposes, it’s still organic material. (As opposed to biodegradable, which just means something degrades into smaller pieces by natural elements, like plastic breaking down into microplastic.) Our compostable dispensary pre-roll packaging is made of plant-based carbohydrates, glycerin, and synthetic polymers, all of which naturally degrade into the soil to simply become organic matter. 
 
Complete with a child-proof pop-top seal of the same material, these compostable pre-roll tubes meet all compliance regulations. They’re made in the United States, adding another layer of sustainability by eliminating overseas shipping emissions. And they’re available in two colors, black and natural cream, so you can easily match them to your branding. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The cannabis industry is growing at a time when the planet can’t handle more trash. To help combat the amount of waste it produces, businesses can choose to prioritize eco-friendly packaging and practices. And they should, not only because it’s their responsibility, but because consumers are willing to pay more for a product that does less harm to the environment. 
 
Recyclable and biodegradable packaging are green options in theory, but the odds of plastic packaging actually being recycled through to the final stage are slim to none, and biodegradable plastic just pumps ecosystems with microplastics. 
 
The best move cannabis businesses can make is to choose compostable packaging, like Custom Cone USA’s newly released home-compostable doob tubes. Made from plant-based carbohydrates, this child-proof pre-roll packaging is a true, viable alternative to the usual polypropylene plastic, and the world’s first home-compostable doob tube. 
 
You can order stocked and ready-to-fill compostable pop-top pre-roll tubes directly from the Custom Cones USA website. Or, connect with a Pre-Roll Expert today to place an order for custom color Ecoline tubes, or perhaps any of our other eco-friendly pre roll packaging options  that are fully customizable for your cannabis products! 
  
 Be sure to let your customers know the eco-friendly change you’ve made to your product line—they’ll be happy to pay you for it!