From the Upcycle Pop Eco Fair and Artist Exhibit


California Nonprofit Tackles Vape Recycling Issues Through Collaboration and Art

Up Kindness is calling attention to the challenges surrounding vape cartridge recycling with an upcycled art exhibit, and brainstorming solutions through panel discussions.

December 19, 2019
Melissa Schiller
by State: California

Up Kindness has a lofty mission to create a kind and sustainable future for all, and the Sacramento, Calif.-based nonprofit is making strides toward achieving this goal after a Dec. 15 panel discussion that brought industry stakeholders together to discuss the environmental concerns surrounding disposable vape cartridges.

The organization partnered with cannabis brand Big Karma and product design firm Canna Co-Operative to hold the discussion with statewide experts, which included panelists such as National Stewardship Action Council Executive Director Heidi Sanborn, GAIACA Waste Revitalization Director of Services Maria Espinoza, Zuber Lawler & Del Duca Law Managing Partner Tom Zuber, Big Karma’s Michelle Dougherty and NUG’s Dante Pasquini.

Photos courtesy of Up Kindness

California law leaves most recycling plants unable to accept certain byproducts of the legal cannabis industry, Up Kindness Executive Director Shira Lane tells Cannabis Business Times. Used vape cartridges, post-extraction biomass and any form of THC were left uncategorized under the federal and state laws that govern hazardous waste.

During the organization’s recent panel discussion, experts discussed the need not only to categorize cannabis waste at the state and federal level, but also to manufacture vape cartridges in such a way that they are easy for recyclers to dismantle and process, Lane says.

“We’re using the word ‘disposable,’ where people believe they can throw these in the trash,” Lane says. “Really, you can’t. You can’t throw them in the trash. You can’t recycle them. There’s nothing you can do about them, and many people are just collecting them in their homes, not knowing what to do.”

This led Up Kindness, Big Karma and Canna Co-Operative to collect manufacturing reject cartridges (which had never touched the plant) and task artists with converting them into upcycled art pieces.

“We wanted to collect these used cartridges and turn them into art pieces so they would be statement pieces to highlight the problem,” Lane says. “There’s no real regulation on what to do in a post-consumer world for these.”

Up Kindness then launched Carts for the Arts, an art exhibit made from empty vape cartridges. The exhibit made its debut Dec. 15 to coincide with the panel discussion and to raise awareness about the complex issue of vape recycling.

The artwork was made through UpcyclePop, a subsidiary of Up Kindness that is made up of 300 upcycle artists.

Up Kindness, Big Karma and Canna Co-Operative collected manufacturing reject cartridges and tasked artists with converting them into upcycled art pieces such as this.

Up Kindness now plans to take the Carts for the Arts exhibit to different cities to continue spreading awareness and to allow more cannabis manufacturers and brands to be a part of the solution.

Up Kindness also operates The Atrium, a creative innovation center focused on sustainability. The Atrium works with start-up companies on sustainability goals, as well as helps existing companies transition to more sustainable practices, Lane says.

The California Legislature is currently taking up S.B. 424, a bill that would require all components of tobacco vapes to be completely recyclable. Lane says it is only a matter of time before similar legislation

affects the cannabis industry, and stakeholders should be willing to work together to find an amicable way to move forward.

“The cannabis industry needs to … keep an eye on this because this might [pass],” she says. “Instead of people being on two sides and fighting, how about we bring people together for a kind conversation? … How can we move together and do the right thing? … There are a lot of components. There’s not just one thing that needs to happen—there are a lot of players that need to come together and work together.”

And that, Lane adds, is the purpose of Up Kindness’ ongoing panel discussions, with the next one slated to be held in Oakland on a to-be-determined date.

“We’re going to continue this conversation with the panelists, and we want the conversation to be open, … so it’s more of an open-door meeting and figuring out solutions,” she says. “We’d like anybody to come and be part of that conversation, … and maybe the cannabis industry can be a leader in sustainability. How about that?”