The marijuana industry in CO is about to get a little greener and a little cleaner. State regulators decided to implement new waste management rules to decrease the industry’s environmental impact.
“This is something the cultivators asked for, something they wanted,” CDPHE marijuana environmental impact researcher and small-business consultant Kaitlin Urso told Westword. “Growers want to make these sustainable decisions and send plants to compost.”
And for good reason, too. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that, in 2019, the state’s weed industry was responsible for 3,650 tons of marijuana plant waste. Colorado currently has a rule that marijuana plant waste be mixed with other refuse like coffee grounds, sawdust, or bleach as long as the ratio is split 50/50 (this is why it’s called the 50/50 rule) between the marijuana items and other waste.
While Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division didn’t take out the 50/50 rule, the group did allow for more updates to the requirements such as allowing marijuana growers to send waste like unneeded leaves and stalks to facilities that will perform anaerobic digestion. This means that these facilities will perform a process that will accelerate the composting process and trap gases that are expended.
“It captures the gasses to use them as a commodity,” Urso said. “When you’re just composting, you’re recovering the nutrient value from the plant material, but you’re still releasing the gases into the atmosphere.”
Growers can also utilize biocharring, which is the burning of leftover marijuana material into a “nutrient-dense charcoal that can be used as a cultivation additive,” according to Westword. Marijuana companies can also go the biomass gasification route, which is “a thermochemical conversion of plant matter into usable gases.”
The new requirements will also make it more financially feasible for companies to remove waste in an eco-friendly manner. This can be an expensive feat as a lot of commercial composting companies will charge their customers per pound. If MED had not altered the 50/50 rule, it would have doubled the costs for businesses.
These newer and greener waste rules for the marijuana industry are set to take effect at the beginning of 2021.