The Role of Foodservice Plastics in the Cannabis Industry

As cannabis businesses continue to grow, there is an increasing need for reliable, efficient, tried-and-true storage solutions to ensure the safety and quality of flower, edibles, extracts, and other cannabis products. Look no further than commercial storage solutions manufactured from materials like polyethylene and polycarbonate. Cannabis containers manufactured from these materials are popular in cannabis cultivation and processing businesses — and for good reason.

The American manufacturing company, Cambro, has been creating food-safe containers made from these polymers for decades. Below, we’ll explore the properties of polycarbonate and polyethylene, as well as several of their applications within the cannabis industry.

First, What Is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate (PC) thermoplastics are used just about everywhere, but what are they? Polycarbonates (PCs) are a group of thermoplastic polymers containing carbonate groups. Plastics with carbonate groups contain a signature (CO3)2 − ion in their chemical structures. The most common type of polycarbonate is made from bisphenol A (BPA) and phosgene.

Bisphenol A is a common chemical that has been used to harden plastics for decades. And phosgene (on its own) is a toxic, colorless gas that was weaponized during WWI. However, when the two compounds are brought together through a polymerization reaction, they form the hard resin we know as polycarbonate plastics, because science! Common, commercial applications of this plastic include:

  • Common packaging material for food and drinks (such as water bottles)
  • Bullet-resistant “glass”
  • Airplane windows
  • Medical equipment
  • Phone cases
  • Computer screens
  • Automotive parts such as headlight lenses and various internal components

The list of commercial uses is rather long due to the versatile, chemical properties of this thermoplastic. It makes sense that PC plastic has been used in nearly every modern industry for decades.

Properties of Polycarbonate

When considering the characteristics of polycarbonate, they appear to mimic that of glass. In fact, the strongest bullet-proof glass is constructed by layering sheets of glass with polycarbonate resin. The more layers, the higher the protection. Polycarbonate/glass layering is used everywhere from banks to dispensaries. In many states, level-3 bullet-resistant glass is actually required to be used in dispensaries. Such is the case in Ohio.

Additional note-worthy properties of PC plastics include:

  • Clarity: Polycarbonate can be manufactured to be highly transparent.
  • Impact Resistance: It is extremely durable, making it suitable for packaging fragile cannabis products, such as vape pens and glass containers.
  • Heat Resistance: Polycarbonate can withstand high temperatures without deforming or melting, making it easy to sterilize the containers in a commercial dishwasher.
  • Lightweight: Despite its strength, polycarbonate is lightweight. This makes it easier to load, transport, and store ingredients.
  • Recyclable: PC plastic can be recycled when it’s reached the end of its lifecycle or needs to be replaced. This is a great feature for cannabis businesses that strive to improve the sustainability of their operations.

This useful thermoplastic is frequently used in the foodservice industry when manufacturing food pans and cold storage ingredient containers. Its efficacy in food-safe storage makes Cambro products great for solving the cannabis storage challenges faced by cultivators and manufacturers.

Applications in the Cannabis Industry

Many of the above properties that make polycarbonate suitable for foodservice easily transfer to applications within the cannabis industry. Storing consumables (buds, trim, ground flower, etc.) in a hardware store bucket that doesn’t meet the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines isn’t exactly the safest way to protect your harvest and safeguard your operations from inspections.

Using Polycarbonate Storage for Cannabis Products

There are numerous uses for polycarbonate storage containers across cannabis verticals such as cultivation and manufacturing. Storing your ground cannabis flower in a clear PC container with graduations allows for an “at-a-glance” monitoring of inventory. This can help processors quickly see how much flower is left to feed into their extraction unit so they know if it’s ready to retrieve another container off the shelf.

The durability of Camwear® storage containers also helps ensure that if they are bumped or dropped, you won’t be scurrying to retrieve an unbroken container. Whether you’re transporting buds or ingredients for the manufacturing of edibles, the strength of these containers protects your product and provides peace of mind.

Cambro Polycarbonate Container
Cambro’s polycarbonate containers are transparent for easy content identification and extremely durable. Their ridged design and molded grips make them ideal for transporting valuable buds or ground flower. The transparent material makes it easy to measure the amount of product being transported or stored.

In addition to its many uses, Camwear® storage containers are NSF-listed, dishwasher safe, and stackable to save valuable space. In addition to polycarbonate storage, Cambro also offers polyethylene storage containers.

What is Polyethylene?

Much like its PC counterpart, polyethylene (PE) thermoplastics are widely used around the world. Polyethylenes are also a group of thermoplastic polymers manufactured from a gas unsurprisingly known as ethylene (C2H4). Depending on the method of polymerization and chosen catalyst (such as naphtha or petroleum) polyethylene plastics are manufactured into a plethora of products. A few of the most familiar applications include:

  • Thin, plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic milk cartons
  • Cutting boards
  • Bulletproof vests
  • Trash receptacles

The list of commercial products available that contain PE plastics are quite extensive. The preponderance of manufactured plastic in the world is polyethylene due to it being BPA-free, often recyclable (depending on its resin code), and its a diverse array of uses.

Properties of Polyethylene

PE is also widely used in the packaging and food storage industry, known for its aforementioned versatile properties and cost-effectiveness. Its lightweight material offers excellent flexibility (as opposed to polycarbonate’s hard, rigidness) and is impact-resistant. Some key properties of polyethylene include:

  • Flexibility: Polyethylene can be easily molded into different shapes and sizes, allowing for customizable packaging solutions for cannabis cultivators and manufacturers.
  • Impact Resistance: It has a high resistance to impact and can withstand rough handling and transportation without breaking or cracking.
  • Sealable: Accompanied with an appropriate lid, PE storage containers help ensure the freshness and integrity of your flowering product.

These qualities make it suitable for various cannabis packaging, storage, and transport applications, which we’ll look at next.

Applications of Polyethylene in the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis buds are nuggets of gold due to being enveloped with resin-filled trichomes. The cannabis plant’s flowers are the lifeblood of every cultivation operation, and it’s a challenge to protect them from bloom to sale. Common solutions that food-grade storage containers provide are dependable protection from contamination and durability use after use.

Cambro Polyethylene with Cannabis
Cambro’s polyethylene, food-grade products make excellent cannabis containers. Using tried-and-true storage and transport containers helps reduce the risk of your flower being contaminated. Cambro containers are commercial dishwasher-safe, allowing you to sterilize them between batches.

If you’re a cannabis kitchen or a manufacturer of infused gummies, cookies, candies, or other edibles — then ensuring you’re using FDA-approved, NSF-listed foodservice supplies is a must.

Using Food-Safe, FDA-Approved Supplies

Polypropylene, polyethylene, and polycarbonate offer a range of properties and benefits that make them highly valuable in the cannabis industry. Their unique characteristics, such as cost-effectiveness, durability, transparency, and versatility make them ideal for various manufacturing, storage, and transport applications. By understanding the benefits of using these materials, cannabis facilities can make informed decisions to ensure the safety, quality, and success of the products they cultivate and manufacture.

Shop Cambro Cannabis Containers →

Partnered With

Cambro Logo

“Trusted for Generations,” Cambro is dedicated to maintaining environmentally responsible business practices throughout its operations around the globe. Cambro’s commitment to food safety and sustainability aligns with the values of the cannabis industry, making them great partners for cultivators and cannabis manufacturers alike.

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