Auxly’s Kolab Project is bringing vape recycling bins to Canadian dispensaries—Superette and Inner Spirit, to start—in a partnership with Greentec, one of the country’s electronic waste recycling businesses.
It’s a collaborative solution to a problem that has vexed the young cannabis industry. Vape cartridges run dry, and the empty products constitute electronic waste (“e-waste”) because of the battery connection. If a customer simply tosses them in the trash, e-waste products like vape cartridges may contribute to soil and water pollution.
“Vape recycling poses the same challenges that all e-waste poses,” Auxly CEO Hugo Alves says.
But the scale of this particular issue is growing. Alves is quick to point out the significant market share held by the vape category in Canada and the U.S. He estimates that vape carts account for 14% of cannabis sales in Canada, and that upwards of 10 million vape carts will have been sold by the end of next year.
To solve the problem, Alves and his team turned to Greentec, which maintains a suite of certifications for handling e-waste. Alves says that this is key: Cannabis remains a tightly regulated industry, of course, and businesses that are interested in striking up these sorts of recycling partnerships must work with an organization that has the credentials to do so.
“By working directly with producers through this program,” Greentec president and CEO Tony Perrotta said in a public statement, “we ensure these materials are recycled to the highest health, safety and environmental standards.”
“The environmental impact of vape products has been a hot topic for us at Superette,” Mimi Lam, CEO and Co-Founder of Superette, said in a public statement. “Kolab Project has a tangible solution that addresses this and demonstrates true industry leadership from Auxly and Greentec. We are excited to be a participating retailer and look forward to finally accepting vapes and cartridges for recycling at our Ottawa and Toronto stores."
Part of this involves some level of customer education, but Alves says that, given the climate in all industries, customers pretty well understand how a recycling program like this works. Retail partners are encouraged to direct customers to the bins when they return with empty carts. (The Kolab Project bins are also good for vapes from any manufacturer, not only the Auxly brands.)
The Greentec partnership follows other moves that Auxly has made to pursue its goal of environmentally sustainable business practices. The company’s own vape pens and cartridges are packaged in 100% biodegradable material, and its Robinsons brand of dried flower is sold to customers in glass jars—not plastic.
“It’s an ambitious mandate for us in keeping with our vision to be better environmental stewards in the cannabis industry,” Alves says. “Environmental sustainability is important to us, and we know it’s important to our customers.”
But he offers a piece of advice for other businesses that might broadcast the same green message to the market: Find an action item. Put your words into action. Among all the ways to leave a helpful impact on the environment, cannabis businesses (or any businesses) can only do so much.
“I think you choose which of those you’re going to act on, and then you have to be proactive,” he says.