When California launched its adult-use cannabis market, Ocean Cannabis Company set out to trade its clamshell-style plastic packaging for something more sustainable.
The company’s co-founders, husband-and-wife team Patrick and Mary Ersig, started their search at an industry trade show, only to find more plastic.
“Everything was so much plastic and so many layers, … and we hated everything,” Mary Ersig tells Cannabis Business Times. “Nothing stood out to us that was great. We’ve always been philanthropists at heart. We always wanted to do good for the community, so we were like, ‘Let’s find something else. Let’s do something else.’”
The Ersigs settled on a biodegradable paper packaging to house its pre-rolls and vape cartridges, but the search continued until they found Oceanworks.
“All the plastic that we use, they collect from floating on the shores of Haiti,” Ersig says. “They actually go out and collect the plastic and turn it into the pellets. … It’s so important because there’s so much plastic in the ocean. … I don’t want to contribute to that problem, especially in cannabis. We should be a green industry. We feel like we can do our part and we should all do our part to help save … the planet and our ocean.”
Oceanworks collects plastic waste from the ocean, stores the material and processes it into the pellets. The pellets are then given to vendors like Sana Packaging, which turns the pellets into the plastic packaging that Ocean Cannabis Company purchases for its products.
“So far, as of today, we’ve collected the equivalent of over 2 metric tons of plastic out of the ocean, just our company,” she says. “Our goal by the end of the year is to collect 10 metric tons out of the ocean. It’s cool because each one of those plastic tubes is the equivalent of 15 drinking straws. … We want to incorporate everyone, not just Oceanworks or Sana Packaging or Ocean Cannabis Company. It’s a group effort. Every time you purchase one of our products, you’re helping to get that plastic out of the ocean. … I feel good about it and happy to save all the turtles out there.”
Ocean Cannabis Company’s packaging is custom-made by Sana Packaging to be child-resistant and compliant with all applicable regulations, Ersig adds. The box that contains the vape cartridges and pre-roll tubes, as well as the disposable vape cartridges themselves, are also made out of recycled material, so the company’s packaging has zero footprint.
Ocean Cannabis Company has been able to implement these changes to its packaging so quickly, in part, because it is a family-owned operation, she says. “We’re a family company. It’s me and my husband, and we’re a boutique brand. We’re not corporate. We’ve been doing this for a long time and have worked really hard to get where we are.”
And while it would be more cost-effective for Ocean Cannabis Company to order plastic packaging from more traditional suppliers, the company absorbs the cost of the recycled plastic and does not pass that extra cost along to its customers.
“That’s just our commitment to the environment, the oceans and being a sustainable company,” Ersig says. “We love the ocean.”
The couple’s ultimate goal is for more cannabis companies to also turn to ocean plastic as a resource to increase the industry’s overall sustainability.
“Ocean plastic is such an abundant resource right now,” she says. “I feel like we could all be doing this as [an] industry. … We could be a green industry. It’s so important because there’s so much packaging and so many brands and everything has to have so many layers, and we have to do something and not contribute to the problem. Everything is in plastic and in glass with plastic lids—it’s overwhelming.”
To advance its mission, Ocean Cannabis Company is hosting a beach clean-up event in April, where it will invite local dispensaries and cannabis brands to see ocean waste firsthand and to help clean up the local beaches.
“We’ll try to get other companies on board to make the change from virgin plastic to ocean plastic, and then we can really make a huge difference as a whole industry,” Ersig says.
In the meantime, she plans to attend other beach clean-ups in the area to help the cause and to spread awareness about Ocean Cannabis Company’s approach to packaging.
“Every time we talk about it, everybody is really happy about it,” Ersig says. “Some of the customers will be like, ‘I’m sold. That’s the one I want, just for that reason.’ And at some of the shops, especially in the beach areas, people are really concerned about all the trash that’s floating up from the ocean and that people leave on the beaches. … That plastic is actually being used, and people are very excited about it."