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Implementing waste audits for LPs

August 9, 2022  By Mika Unterman

Photo:© posteriori / E+ / Getty Images

When it comes to monitoring your company waste, find out what simple measures you can take to increase profitability.

Best of all, many materials the cannabis industry produces as waste, when separated, can be sold into third party markets, saving you money & bringing in revenue. 

Reading this article is about the single easiest and cheapest action you can take to advance sustainability in your organization. Environmental consciousness has the potential to be more than simple feel-good initiatives only lending themselves to environmental impacts — there are untapped revenue streams you can  leverage to help improve margins. 

Ask yourself this: how much of your precious and scarce capital ends up in the garbage or down the drain because you’re not examining your waste? 

Our planet is in jeopardy; we produce an unsustainable amount of waste. With the introduction of more and more “stuff,” we continue to extract materials from the earth in a damaging way. 


The problem here is twofold: landfill emissions account for eight percent of global GHG emissions, and our waste problem is contributing to temperatures rising, increasing wildfires, to start.

In our rush to try and address the drastic need for action while demonstrating to our consumers that we understand their needs and wants — primarily a planet still capable of supporting life — we make hasty decisions that may attract attention but are scrapped at the first signs of distress.  

So, the work then becomes identifying where strategic importance lies for your business. 

Much of the focus in the cannabis industry is on the waste generated by consumer plastics. Understandably so, as our impact as an industry is immense, with over 6.4 million kilograms of plastic waste from 2018 to 2019. This ends up in landfills since much of our plastics can’t be recycled or they are simply mismanaged. As producers and retailers, we hold very little influence to make the necessary changes. 

Health Canada does hold that influence — they determined that plastics needed to be opaque, they set the standard of CR, they made the smell proof requirement. 

Municipal waste managers also hold influence — they determine what can be recycled, they mismanage the plastics, and they sell them to realize revenue. 

It’s for this reason that recycling initiatives are not producing a tangible,  beneficial impact. 


A whole world in waste

Waste is a most pressing concern as it both depletes resources, and it must be stored in landfills. What you probably don’t know is that industrial, commercial, and institutional (IC&I) waste makes up the largest portion of the non-hazardous solid waste stream (this is us). 

Manufacturing waste is 100 percent within your control — your operations, your facility, your decision.

By measuring and understanding the sources and causes of this waste, there is great potential for reducing the quantity of materials destined for disposal, while increasing the quantity put back into productive use. 

By identifying the causes of waste, the cannabis industry can move towards manufacturing and production that minimizes or eliminates waste, ensures that the by-products are repurposed, and that organic waste is composted and returned to the soil — this is a waste audit.

Furthermore, there is financial incentive to a waste audit. Understanding your waste-producing habits illuminates your best opportunities for re-use, which will ultimately reduce the fee you pay for waste-hauling. 

Best of all, many materials the cannabis industry produces as waste, when separated, can be sold into third party markets, saving you money and bringing in revenue. 


The specifics of an audit

A waste audit involves not only measuring the quantity of waste and its composition, but also identifying the manner by which it gets produced. Collecting this data helps to enable waste reduction and diversion practices while identifying modification processes to use fewer raw materials. 

Your audit begins with the assembly of an all-star team. This includes everyone from senior leaders and the safety and compliance team, to environmental services and janitorial staff. Never assume anyone in your company is “overqualified” for this task.

Deciding on the scope of your waste audit is imperative to the well-functioning of your operation. The audit process should represent a typical day of activities and a significant portion of your revenue and production practices. 

Balance may be achieved by gathering enough operational data so that the information has value and is representative, yet does not exhaust your team. 

As processes unfold in the facility, sort and categorize waste in order to obtain a statistical picture of the quantities of waste generated at a particular site, along with their methods of disposal. 

During the production practices, collect all waste items used at that time, including materials required to prepare and maintain existing systems. Use the data you have collected to extrapolate your facility waste creation. Look for trends that discern what types of waste are most prolific, and how much is “contaminated”. 

After the waste audit is complete, confer with your team to identify specific waste reduction initiatives, and explore buyer options for your waste. 

Understanding your company habits is the first step in illuminating where your biggest opportunities are for cost reduction and the development of new revenue streams that may help support your operation for the long haul. 

Mika Unterman has been commercializing cannabis products since 2018, with 60 brought to market to date. Since founding the Apical Ethical Cannabis collective in 2019, she’s made it her mission to work with companies, demonstrating how sustainability can support profitability. 

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