Solid waste is a hazard to public health and the environment. Even though many packaging companies are turning green, there is still work that needs to be done, since packaging by-products compromise a significant percentage of the overall solid waste stream in business production. To ensure the solid waste generated by this packaging is as least harmful as possible, regulation now exists to limit the amount of toxins in these materials.
Foremost among the toxins regulated in packaging laws are heavy metals. It has been made evident that lead, mercury,cadmium, and hexavalent chromium are of concern due to their detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Now being a member of the regulated market, cannabis packaging must learn to follow the guidelines set out by the Department of Toxic Substance Control, created by the California legislature under the Toxics in Packaging Prevention Act. This Department regulates all commercial packaging, including now recreational cannabis.
In California, packaging even for promotional purposes may not have a component that includes a regulated metal in the packaging itself or in a packaging component. The limits of detection are relatively lax, as the product may not exceed 100 parts per million (ppm) by weight of these metals. An authorized representative of the Department of Toxic Substance Control may enter and inspect a retail or manufacturing establishment with a warrant and appropriate credentials at a reasonable time. They may even borrow a sample to test, and reimburse the cost if it has been destroyed. If a company knowingly or intentionally offers for sale or gives out promotional material that violates this law, they are liable for a $5,000 to $100,000 and some county jail time.
There is also a mechanism in place for companies to apply for an exemption to these heavy metal guidelines, which is something they might do when the methods of producing the packaging makes accumulation of heavy metals inevitable. For example, some consideration is given to heavy metal concentrations arising from the use of recycled materials, which naturally have higher amounts. Or, if the company is able to prove the exempt packaging has a greater environment benefit compared to the compliant one.
Companies seeking an exemption must submit a letter to the Department providing all the necessary documentation stating which subdivision is being applied for with a description of the type of package or packaging component to which the exemption applies. The type and concentration of the regulatedmetal must be submitted along with the testing methods used to determine the concentration. Also, a description of past, current, and planned future efforts to seek or develop alternatives to eliminate the use of the regulated metal in the package or packaging component, and what measures have been taken to why the alternative is not satisfactory for achieving compliance with the law, must explicitly be explained.
There is a 60-day gap to correct any missing or incorrect information on the packaging with regards to heavy metal concentrates.Otherwise, packaging must immediately be replaced to one that conforms to Section 25214.13, in accordance with a schedule approved in writing by the Department.
California has taken important steps to regulate not just the type of cannabis packaging but also its composition. Eliminating the addition of these heavy metals to cannabis packagingis the first step in reducing the accumulation of these toxic and hazardous materials in solid waste landfills nation-wide.