The Cannabis Waste Problem: How Innovation Leads to Opportunity
September 4th, 2019
App, Exclusive, News, Top News
One somewhat unforeseen issue that has arisen as a result of the spreading legalization of cannabis is related to waste, in a variety of forms. Growers use the flower of the plant but dispose of significantly more biomass containing stems, trimmed leaves, and sub-optimal flower. Unfortunately, there are environmental implications surrounding the disposal of high volumes of cannabis waste. Additionally, there are concerns surrounding wastewater from cannabis operations and the potential for contamination of the environment and of municipal wastewater systems
Micron Waste Technologies Inc. (CSE: MWM) (OTC: MICWF) (Frankfurt: 7FM2) has developed and is refining an innovative technical solution to the solid waste disposal problem. Called the Cannavore™, Micron’s waste processing unit is a self-contained and automated shredder, digester, and effluent treatment system in a mobile shipping container. Put in cannabis waste, and out comes clean water and digested and denatured (no more active ingredients like THC) biosolids.
Micron Waste’s Cannavore™ cannabis waste and wastewater processing unit
Micron Waste recently received a Cannabis Research License from Health Canada, allowing the company to handle cannabis in-house at the Micron Waste Innovation Centre in Delta, BC. The license will enable the company to optimize the Cannavore™ system’s performance, even down to strain-specific microbe and enzyme blends. Perhaps more importantly, Micron is expanding its business as a result of the new license to focus on wastewater treatment and reclamation as well as on solid waste management.
According to VICE News, Health Canada documents from 2017 showed that for every kilogram of legal cannabis flower produced, licensed growers disposed of nearly eight kilograms of cannabis waste. Some companies compost the material (either onsite or by transporting to a compost site), a process that can be time-consuming, costly, and which doesn’t necessarily result in denatured cannabis waste. Some companies simply haul the waste off to a landfill or for incineration, a process that is also time-consuming, costly, and can add to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbate landfill capacity concerns. Add to that the requirement that the Responsible Person in Charge (RPIC) or other senior officer from the producer needs to accompany and witness the destruction of the cannabis waste, and proper disposal clearly becomes an issue for cannabis producers.
The current methods also lead to another problem. Without properly denaturing the waste, active ingredients like THC can make their way through untreated wastewater, sewage, and runoff into waterways. Studies show that wastewater treatment plants remove as little as 31% of THC and its main metabolites, if the water is treated at all. Environment Canada estimated that nearly 120 million cubic meters of untreated sewage and runoff entered the nation’s waterways in 2016. The combination of ineffective and sometimes non-existent treatment can lead to concentration of THC in aquatic environments and oxidative stress in aquatic organisms.
On top of the THC-in-water concerns, there are other issues surrounding water use in the cannabis industry. These include the sheer volume of water needed to mass-produce the plant, the presence of pesticides in wastewater, and the effects fertilizers in wastewater can have on the aquifer.
The Micron Waste Solution(s)
Front and center for Micron Waste is the Cannavore™ waste processing system. Designed to conform with all Health Canada disposal regulations, the system offers several advantages over the current composting/landfill solutions. Since it is onsite, self-contained, and fully automated, while providing 24/7 data reporting on the amounts of waste being processed, it removes the requirement for an RPIC to accompany cannabis waste and witness its destruction. It works much more quickly than typical composting systems, completing its process in 24-48 hours as compared to weeks or months for composting. It also guarantees the denaturing process, meaning that there are no active ingredients like THC left, as opposed to the incomplete denaturing achieved by composting.
Watch a video demonstrating how the Cannavore™ processes waste:
The unit produces no odor and utilizes a closed loop system capable of returning reclaimed water back to facility operations. If producers choose not to recycle the water, the treated water, which meets municipal discharge standards, can be compliantly released into the sewer. The result is a very clean and easy-to-use system that checks off all the regulatory and environmental concern boxes.
Micron, which has a strategic partnership with Aurora Cannabis Inc., has been testing the system at its Mountain facility near Calgary since the summer of 2018. Micron also has a strategic partnership with BC Research Inc. for the development of both its Cannavore™ and Organivore™ food waste processing units.
Micron Waste is planning to leverage its newly-granted Cannabis Research License to create a comprehensive wastewater mitigation consulting service for the cannabis industry. Led by Chief Technology Officer and Founder Dr. Bob Bhushan and utilizing the company’s research at the Innovation Centre, Micron will be helping producers maximize their responsible water use while minimizing negative environmental impacts. The move could add another revenue stream for the company as it contracts out its cannabis facility wastewater treatment expertise and knowledge of compliance and environmental issues.
Dr. Bob Bhushan, Chief Technology Officer and founder of Micron Waste Technologies Inc.
With the recent receipt of the Cannabis Research License, Micron Waste’s capabilities have greatly increased. The company is now approved to handle cannabis in-house as it studies the most effective ways to eliminate unnecessary waste throughout the industry. Micron is also positioned to become the industry’s leading expert on responsible water use through its consulting division, offering testing services and solutions to cannabis producers. Its partnership with Aurora Cannabis, one of the world’s largest cannabis companies, provides valuable R&D feedback and insights into the best ways to service the cannabis sector’s cannabis waste needs, putting Micron in a class of its own as it commercializes both the product and service offerings. Interesting developments indeed in the Micron Waste universe, and worth following.
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