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Closing the Loop: How P3’s Recycling Program is Changing the Cannabis Industry

"Our craft level of recyclability is something to be proud of."

Photo by Fletcher Wold

We were so excited to see Cannabis rolling out legally that we accepted a lot of the bullshit that came with it. Limited licenses, taxes, and possibly worst of all, a mountain of plastic waste. When Oregon-based P3 Distributing recognized that we were stuck with all these plastic containers, exit bags, and METRC tags, they pioneered a solution to the Cannabis industry’s reliance on single-use packaging. 

Fletcher Wold

The Leaf sat down with P3 owner Patrick Caldwell and business development manager Grey Simkins to discuss their efforts to change the packaging discussion around Cannabis, offering solutions for a rapidly evolving market, and how P3 is recycling a tidal wave of pop tops in their wake.

For eight years, P3 has been a driving force behind eco-conscious Cannabis packaging. A key effort in P3’s mission is partnering with dispensaries statewide to establish free recycling programs, now in over 400 Oregon retailers. Their scope extends beyond plastics, encompassing glass jars, paper, metal, and more from the Cannabis supply chain.

Fletcher Wold

“Our craft level of recyclability is something to be proud of,” said Patrick, highlighting their impressive 80% in-house recycling rate, a giant leap over the typical 5-50%.

They are staying on trend too. With the proliferation of Mylar, P3 champions another solution with the same benefits, all the way down to the custom art. 

Fletcher Wold

Grey emphasizes, “With our polyethylene bags, we’re actively countering the Mylar epidemic and offering more sustainable alternatives.”

P3’s commitment is apparent: this isn’t just about selling more packaging. Their yearly Recyclethon had 130 dispensary participants and set records on the material collected. The containers in each shop read “When full, call Patrick”. They even invite consumers to their facility for free type-five plastic recycling. 

Fletcher Wold

Beyond plastic, P3 recognizes that reusing containers is the most efficient option, so they’ve developed a program, now approved by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, to close the loop on concentrate jars as well. Grey explains, “Our nine-millimeter glass jars exemplify our commitment to circularity. We can collect, sanitize, and resell a fully sustainable product that can go full circle over and over again.” 

As they expand, P3 remains rooted in Oregon, yet with a national vision. Their eco-conscious products are available online to everyone now, with a goal set to foster a network of recycling partners nationwide, amplifying their sustainability efforts far beyond state lines.

Fletcher Wold

Patrick and the crew saw the piles of pop tops stacking up and the difficulties recycling them and, instead of ignoring the problem, they aimed for a solution. Now P3 partners with hundreds of dispensaries to help close the loop, focusing on collecting as much plastic as possible to upcycle. The best part? Most of this material is used in garden-supply items, such as nursery grow pots, which often touch the Cannabis plant again.

So, the next time you tap the last beautiful bud out of its dispensary packaging, consider where it could end up. Thanks to P3, it might just come full circle.

p3distributing.com | @p3distro

Photos by @fwold_photography

This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of All Magazines.

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