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Hemp Plastic Packaging: The Promise Of Hemp Plastic With Sana Packaging

What if hemp plastic packaging could replace the wasteful, less sustainable packaging we use today?

In episode 66 of the Ministry of Hemp Podcast, our host Matt has a conversation with Ron Vasak-Smith, CEO, and James Eichner, Co-Founder and CSO, of Sana Packaging.

Ron and James met in grad school where they worked on a project together that would turn into a career running a hemp packaging company. The two cofounded Sana Packaging. Today, they work with more than 300 vendors using both hemp plastic and reclaimed ocean plastic as packaging for cannabis and hemp brands.

We’ve visited with Sana Packaging before, including a discussion about sustainable hemp plastic and paper packaging at NoCo Hemp Expo in 2018.

Matt also mentions our 2020 CBD and Hemp Gift Guide and our Populum CBD honey review.

You’ve got hemp questions? We’ve got hemp answers!

Send us your hemp questions and you might hear them answered on one of our Hemp Q&A episodes. Send your written questions to us on Twitter, Facebook, [email protected], or call us and leave a message at 402-819-6417. Keep in mind, this phone number is for hemp questions only and any other inquiries for the Ministry of Hemp should be sent to [email protected]

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Hemp plastic packaging arranged on a wooden table top. In an insert photo, the two founders of Sana Packaging, Ron Basak-Smith and James Eichner.
After meeting in college, Ron Basak-Smith and James Eichner created Sana Packaging, to create sustainable hemp plastic packaging and packaging made from reclaimed ocean plastic.

Hemp Plastic Packaging, With Sana Packaging: Complete episode transcript

Below you’ll find the complete transcript of episode 66 of the Ministry of Hemp podcast, “Hemp Plastic Packaging”:

Matt Baum:
I’m Matt Baum, and this is the Ministry of Hemp Podcast, brought to you by ministryofhemp.com, America’s leading advocate for hemp and hemp education.

Matt Baum:
I never went to grad school. I had a lot of friends that did though, and it was a nightmare. It was super difficult, and they were literally living on a shoestring budget while working as hard as they possibly could to hopefully increase their chances of getting a job afterwards. Now imagine that you finished grad school and you had a project you believed in so much that you said, “The easy thing to do would be to go and find a job, but instead we should make a job.” And that is exactly what my guests, Ron Vasak-Smith and James Eichner did. Ron is the CEO and James is the CSO of Sana Packaging. Sana Packaging is an up-and-coming hemp plastic packaging company. They had an idea in grad school and it was centered around cannabis packaging, and the question, why is it all in single-use plastic?

Matt Baum:
There’s plenty of industries out there that are trying to be more environmentally friendly, but it seems like the cannabis industry is intensely aware of their impact on the environment and what they can do to lessen that impact. When these two grad students started approaching smoke shops in their area saying, “Hey, instead of putting everything in plastic, what if we put it in hemp plastic? Or what if we put it in reclaimed plastic?” And they built a customer base, and now they’ve got a successful business. I had a fantastic conversation with these guys that I think you’re really going to enjoy. I know we’ve talked a lot about hemp plastic on the show recently, but this was a chance to talk to two people about how they got a business like this off the ground, and they were completely open and honest and a lot of fun to talk to. This is my conversation with Ron Vasak-Smith and James Eichner of Sana Packaging.

The college origins of Sana Packaging

Matt Baum:
Let’s start at the beginning. You guys met in college.

James Eichner:
At grad school.

Matt Baum:
Grad school. Okay. You met in grad school. And what were you both going to grad school for at the time?

James Eichner:
We were pursuing our MBAs at CU Boulder.

Matt Baum:
Okay.

James Eichner:
And we were both taking a lot of classes together.

Matt Baum:
And at some point you’re like, “You know what? There’s too much single-use plastic in this world.” How does this come up? How does this even start? It’s the kind of thing where… you both look like ski bums to me, no offense, but I know one of you happen to have been skiing today. How do you get in the idea that not only do I want to work on a project where maybe we incorporate hemp into plastic, but we should start a company too. How does this happen?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yeah. I mean, honestly I think James and I both say it comes from being disgruntled consumers, right? We are both in Colorado since legalization happened and consuming cannabis and just personal guilt, honestly. If this is something that I’m going to be consuming, and it’s just another area of waste that I think James and I are… We’re both really fortunate to be in the time at school, when we were just able to have the space to start a business, right. And coming out of grad school, it’s either go find a job or start a job. One of the other.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Starting something sounded a little more intriguing, I guess.

Matt Baum:
But this started as like a college project. Is that right, James?

James Eichner:
Yeah. We were in a sustainable venturing class together and we’d taken a bite. We were both focusing our studies on primarily sustainability and entrepreneurship. So we basically ended up in all the same classes together. And this was the first semester of our last year. And Ron approached me and asked if I wanted to work on this project with him. And Ron hit the nail on the head by saying at the time, it was like, “Hey, I know you’re disgruntled about cannabis packaging as well. Do you think this sounds like a fun idea for a class project?” And at the time it was really just an exploration to see what might be out there material-wise, business model-wise, neither of us had a background in packaging or anything like that. It really was, I don’t know, happenstance.

Matt Baum:
That’s my next question. Neither of you have a background in packaging, did either of you have a background in cannabis other than recreational cannabis or?

James Eichner:
Not beyond the level of small-time college slanging eighths for some extra pocket change-

Matt Baum:
Fair enough, fair enough.

James Eichner:
Really beyond that, no experience in the cannabis industry. Formerly, I came from the social and environmental justice sectors before grad school. Ron came from the liquor industry. I think we’re both… They like to say that there’s a few types of MBA students. There’s people who are there to enhance their careers. There’s people who are there to change their careers. And then there’s folks like Ron and I who just really needed some direction. And we both really love being students. And I think we didn’t know each other beforehand, but I think we were just in similar positions of it’s our mid-twenties, we’ve had a few years after college having fun and now we really need to find some meaningful direction. And I think that’s what, ultimately both drew us back to school.

Matt Baum:
What year was this when this project started? Because now from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen and talked to other people, even in the last five years, there’s been a lot more of the hemp that you would need to make industrial packaging or even rope or cloth and stuff like that. But literally only in the last five years before that it was a complete desert from what I understand. And even now it’s still not real easy. What did it look like when you started and what year was that?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yes, we got started in 2016.

Matt Baum:
Okay.

Creating more sustainable packaging for hemp and cannabis

Ron Vasak-Smith:
I remember I went for grad school. Our class advisor was like, “Hey, you need to go to get more involved in something that you’re interested in.” And there was a hemp conference-

Matt Baum:
Like, “What you doing with your life kid, come on.”

Ron Vasak-Smith:
There was a hemp conference up in Loveland and I was like, “Ah, I like hemp that sounds interesting enough to me.”

Matt Baum:
Was that NOCO in Loveland?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
It wasn’t NOCO, it was like a round table and then it was just probably 50 to 70 people, just Governor Polis was there just gives 2016… The hemp stuff was just getting off the ground.

Matt Baum:
Great.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
And I was there and I was looking around and I was just like, “Seems like, I’m in the right place, right time to do something with this stuff it’s happening. Why not be an on the ground level. And it just coincides, it is really useful for a lot of things. And so why not try to make some packaging out of it.”

Matt Baum:
At that time CBD was booming and really starting to take off. Why didn’t you guys try and jump in on that? I’m not trying to dissuade you anyway. I’m just curious and thinking process, because I’ve interviewed so many people that were like, “I was growing hemp. I started making CBD doing the CBD to…. ” Not as many people have decided to go the industrial route. And I’m just curious, why not go into CBD?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
I think for us, it was honestly like if you’re going to start a business, start a business that’s a problem, right?

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
And not saying that CBD isn’t fixing problems, it is, but for us, this was a problem that we were passionate about. Let the passion drive the ship I think for us in that one, and there’s definitely been times where it’s like, “Oh, CBD seems to be an easier path to profitability than what we have going on.” But the same time I think James probably feels the same way, but we were stoked on what we’re doing.

James Eichner:
Yeah. And I think starting with the initial problem that we set out to explore was why is cannabis packaging and by extension hemp and CBD product packaging, why is it the way it is? Why are people using the materials that they’re using?

Matt Baum:
Yeah. It’s stupid right?

James Eichner:
What’s affecting that. And so we started from the packaging side of things and then got into the hemp side in terms of learning about it as a potential material for packaging, as opposed to coming to the hemp plant and then trying to figure out, okay, well, what do we do with it? We already had that intended use in mind. And luckily it worked out.

Matt Baum:
And James, it didn’t hurt that you came from an environmental law background as well I’m sure.

James Eichner:
No, no, no. Nonprofit. Environmental nonprofit, yeah.

Matt Baum:
So you were making the big bucks in the environmental?

James Eichner:
Yeah. I was really rolling [crosstalk 00:09:46].

Matt Baum:
There you go. All right. It’s all coming together now.

James Eichner:
Still really rolling now.

Sana Packaging’s first hemp plastic packaging prototypes

Matt Baum:
Oh, I can tell. Just by the way, you should see where these guys live. It’s palatial. It’s an audio podcast, so they can’t see it. You do the project, you find out this can work. We can actually make this happen. What happens next? Then you’re just like, screw it, let’s start a company?

James Eichner:
Ron, did we have a 3D printed prototype by the end of that semester, by the class projector?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yeah. We were doing the New Venture Challenge along with it, right?

James Eichner:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Because there’s some cash prize involved in that. And I think-

James Eichner:
We didn’t wait in back.

Matt Baum:
Fair enough.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
… coinciding with the one class and we had another class project and we were doing in that venture challenge. Just, I mean, like when you’re in school, right? There’s the most resources around you you’re going to have, right?

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
We were able to rely on people much smarter than us, and had skillsets in areas that we didn’t to help us along. We had a prototype made basically for the class project. Fortunately, a company was making 3D printable hemp plastics.

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
To make a hemp prototype packaging product wasn’t too far of a stretch. And I had an idea of what design would have some sort of locking mechanism in it and stuff. And we tried out some stuff. And so at the end of the class we did have a prototype.

Matt Baum:
Tell me about the prototype. What was it?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
It was our first, basically a pretty similar to what our first product is, honestly. I don’t have any right here to show you, but it’s our box that you see on our website basically. And we sat down with a engineering student who knew CAD/CAM and was able to sketch something out that the next step-

Matt Baum:
Right, the math.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
The math [crosstalk 00:11:43].

James Eichner:
Yeah. Shout out to a Swapneil Kumar for being our first product designer.

Matt Baum:
That’s awesome. You said you used a 3D printer, so you’re using these are the ones that use the hemp plastic that also has regular plastic in it as well, right?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yes. And it’s actually a really similar formulation to what we’re using currently because PLA, which is the plant-based polymer typically comes from corn or sugarcane feed stock.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Has a lower melting temperature than a traditional petroleum-based plastic. And so with that lower melting temp, it’s a hemp and corn-based composite basically.

Matt Baum:
Okay.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
So it really similar to what we use now. And that was the, “Hey, this is a step in that direction. Our products we want to make them a hundred percent plant-based.” And so this was a pathway towards that.

Matt Baum:
That’s one of the things I’ve talked to some people about hemp plastics about. The PLAs especially while they do break down better, they can leave microplastics and stuff like that. You’ve moved now to a full plant-based, is that correct?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yeah. It’s a biocomposite 30% hemp, 30% PLA. Still dealing with that issue with any polymer is going to leave behind microplastics. It just matters what happens to it, how they’re digested, where they’re digested. And we as a company coming a long way from four years ago, James and I have learned so much about the actual systems within the waste space. And so what actually happens to a product afterwards is the stuff that we would like to see more focus on.

Matt Baum:
Right. It compostable what you’re dealing with?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Not certified compostable, we use compostable inputs, but due to the wall thickness of our product, we don’t actually meet the breakdown timeframe-

Matt Baum:
Fair enough.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
… which is 90 days for that. And so this is basically our first product to market and we know that there’s so much more that we can do moving forward. And so that’s just what we’re currently working on that [inaudible 00:13:59].

Getting started in hemp plastic packaging

Matt Baum:
Let’s talk about your current product. James, tell me about what you guys have going on right now?

James Eichner:
We went to CanopyBoulder, an accelerator in Boulder.

Matt Baum:
Okay.

James Eichner:
And that’s how we got our first bit of funding. And Ron put in some of his personal money as well. And that’s what got us off to the races. And we Sana Packaging became a full-time endeavor for us. Really the second we finished school and the accelerator in the span of the same week, I think. And had a little bit of money in the bank for the company. And just like how the class project went well, so we decided to apply to an accelerator.

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

James Eichner:
Accelerator went well, so we decided to continue with the project after the accelerator and things kept slowly falling into place, but it took us about a full year after we finished the accelerator to get our first real working prototypes, not just done, but child-resistant certified and then building out a production scale mold. And then we launched a pilot program in the summer of 2018 with around 20 pilot customers and went through a six months learning period with them because beyond just making a product, a big part of packaging is the customer service that you’re providing to folks.

Matt Baum:
Oh yeah.

James Eichner:
Learning the ins and outs of how to communicate with our manufacturing partners, our supplier partners, how to communicate with our customers, how to make sure that things show up on time. All that behind the scenes operational stuff was hammered out in this six month customer-learning period, along with just ramping up our production and making sure that we can truly start mass producing something made out of a hemp biocomposite. And that was in 2019, beginning of 2019 that we really opened our doors up for sales. And now we’re up to… Started 2019 with two products and 20 customers now coming to the end of 2020, we’re up to seven products. One which we just launched earlier this week, soon to be eight, we’re going to launch our eighth product just before the end of the year. And we’re up to a little over 370 customers now and so it’s-

Matt Baum:
That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

James Eichner:
… crazy how far we’ve come.

Matt Baum:
You guys, rather than the other posh mucks that had to get out of grad school and go find work, you’re like, “Let’s just make a job. We’ll make our damn own job.” Which is harder, sure. But you did it. Tell me about your first customers. I’m sorry. Tell me your first customers, like the people when you came out, like those first 20 people, what did you guys do? Did you just like show up places and be like, “See this box, this box is made of hemp, it’s not cardboard, it’s not plastic.” What was that like? Who were they?

James Eichner:
It was a lot of door-to-door.

Matt Baum:
Really? Literally like, “Hello, my name is Ron and I’m James. And we’re here to talk to you about Sana Packaging.”

Ron Vasak-Smith:
When we look back on it now it is like, no. I would say it’d be very difficult to do what we did in any other industry, right? Like the cannabis industry just getting going. And you could just walk into a dispensary and be like, “Hey, hemp. We’re making hemp packaging.” Right?

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
And then the people were like, it would get like an eye raise and maybe interest in it. We didn’t have the product to sell at the time. It was very much like when you’re going through the startup phase, you’re fundraising, you’re trying to basically convince customers, but then you’re trying to convince investors and such that someone’s going to actually buy this product, right?

Matt Baum:
Right. But you’re not just convincing them that like, “Hey, you should buy this product.” You’re also having to convince them, like, “You should spend a little more money on your packaging for a more responsible product.” Right?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s the tough thing, right to go into a business and tell them, “Hey, you need to spend more money on product that… ” It’s a tough conversation. And I think that was for us at the beginning, we really had to have that passion. Just button up the shirt and go and knock on as many doors as possible and be like, “Hey, is this interesting to you? Would you buy this?”

Matt Baum:
And again it probably wouldn’t work in any other industry. It’s not like you can walk into Ford and be like, “Hey, instead of using all that plastic in your car… ” For the cannabis industry, I can see them being like, “Wait a minute. Why are we putting this stuff in plastic or cardboard or a garbage.” When you’re supposed to be a little more ecologically friendly. I would guess in that industry.

James Eichner:
We really owe so much to those early pilot customers. Because when we first approached all of them, it was similar. We were approaching investors, we were approaching potential customers. And with everyone, it was selling them on a hope and a dream. With investors it was, if you give us money, we will make this and we’re confident that we’ll be able to sell it for this amount. And it will be a good use of your money to invest at us, who by the way have never done anything.

Matt Baum:
Two grad students with a dream.

James Eichner:
And then with these potential customers, it was approaching folks and saying, “Here’s a prototype. If we’re able to mass produce this four to six months from now, will you commit to being a pilot customer with us?” And again, selling someone on a hope and a dream and something that doesn’t physically exist yet. And as you’re trying to connect to the dots of getting money in, investors want to see that you have potential customers lined up, potential customers want to see that you actually have a product to sell. And so you’re trying to line up all of these things. And I’m trying to think of who some of those early customers are. I know there’s-

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Shout out to Smokey’s 420 in Fort Collins. They were our first, first customer.

Matt Baum:
Nice.

James Eichner:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
So they’ll still have that first check.

Investing in hemp plastic packaging

Matt Baum:
It’s one thing to walk into Smokey’s in Fort Collins and be like, “Hey bros, we should all be nicer to the earth, right.” And they’re like, “Yeah, bro.” And you’re like, “Well, check this out.” What were the investors like? That’s got to be a whole different shebang there. I mean, when you start talking to money guys, what were they like? Who were your first investors? I mean, I know Ron, you had to throw some of your money in there. I hope you got it back. It seems like you probably did it by this point.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
We’re working on that.

James Eichner:
We’re working on it.

Matt Baum:
What was it like approaching investors with this idea?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
I think first being able to go… James and I as being two guys leaving grad school who hadn’t done this before, being able to go into business accelerator like CanopyBoulder was focused in the cannabis industry and had the framework set up for us as far as this is how you will approach, this is how you could approach these people. And so I think that was super useful for us. But I mean, I think James and I would just… It’s one of those things you got to learn on the fly, right?

Matt Baum:
Sure, sure.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
You just put yourself out there, right? You don’t know how you’re going to be received by these people. There’s a lot of perceived, critiquing going on around your business model, how you’re presenting it. Early on a lot of unsolicited advice that you just got to-

Matt Baum:
I’m sure.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
… take it in and be-

Matt Baum:
You can’t wear that. You’re going to wear some money dress like that.

James Eichner:
Ron’s name was actually changed from Ronnie to Ron by potential investors.

Matt Baum:
Oh, I totally believe it.

James Eichner:
When I met Ron, he went by Ronnie. And he’s gone by Ronnie, his whole life, so a friend calls him Ronnie, his friends call him Ronnie. And we just started interacting with these potential investors. And they skew male.

Matt Baum:
No.

James Eichner:
They skew a little older.

Matt Baum:
No. You’re kidding me. Let me guess a little white too, I would guess.

James Eichner:
Yeah. Pretty pasty like what you’ve just seen here.

Matt Baum:
Okay. I think I know what you’re talking about now.

James Eichner:
Yeah. And literally overnight, Ronnie became Ron because he just introduced himself, “Hi, my name’s Ronnie.” And they’d be like, “Nice to meet you, Ron.”

Matt Baum:
Yeah. That’s a kid’s name. I’m not going to call you that. All right. Anyway, where were we?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yeah, exactly what I heard that’s a child’s name, so you get that enough times you’re like, “Oh, we’re trying to make good money here.”

Matt Baum:
Right.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Changed the name to see if that works too.

James Eichner:
Just about investors again, real quick though, it’s similar to those early customers where you get really lucky and you find these handful of people that believe in what you’re doing. Like Smokey’s 420 in Fort Collins or Bailey and Murphy in Oregon, they were another early one. We had a few early investors as well. I don’t want to name names, but there’s one individual who he’s placed capital with us a few times in a few different seed rounds that we’ve done. And not huge sums but he’s been the first money in on each of those rounds and-

Matt Baum:
That counts [inaudible 00:23:53].

James Eichner:
… if you’ve ever fund raised before that first money in is the hardest, because no one wants to be the first.

Matt Baum:
Everybody is waiting to see if someone is going to throw money [crosstalk 00:24:02].

James Eichner:
Everyone’s looking for people around them to be like, “Hey, this is a good idea. We’re all doing this.”

Matt Baum:
Right.

James Eichner:
That first person’s really taken a big leap and this person did that for us twice. And it’s not the most money we’ve ever gotten, but it’s some of the most important money we’ve ever gotten.

Matt Baum:
Yeah, I would argue it counts way more. Just because someone else sees, “Oh, I’m not the only idiot that’s going to throw money at this. Someone else did it for us. So. Okay.”

Ron Vasak-Smith:
And even more than that, like the confidence boost that it gives you.

Matt Baum:
Totally.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
From a fundraising standpoint, right?

Matt Baum:
Totally.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
It’s like when you go fishing, right? You might not know there’s any fish in there, so you’re just like, “Let the second get a bite.” You’re like, “All right, first this is worthwhile, right? We got a chance here.”

Matt Baum:
Back to where we were saying about going in and talking to these investors, you guys had never done it before, so you don’t know the wrong way to do it, let alone the right way. Let’s just do it, right?

James Eichner:
Yeah.

Growing Sana Packaging

Matt Baum:
That’s great. You go from 20 customers to 300 customers, you said you just unveiled a new product last week. What was that?

James Eichner:
That was a V2 or I don’t know if V2 is the right word, but it’s a second iteration of our reclaimed ocean plastic pre-roll tube. The first iteration that we did was in the same production scale mold as our hemp biocomposite pre-roll tube. We knew when we launched the… Because using the same mold for both products was an easy way to have a new product, use a new material, get something else to market. But we knew from the get-go that down the road, we would be able to lighten the amount of material used just because the wall thicknesses are a little thicker than necessary for the reclaimed ocean plastic material, because they were designed to run this biocomposite.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

James Eichner:
This has been a long time coming for us and we’re really excited about this product. It’s our first pop-top design. Our previous products had… They were two piece molds, meaning that the lid of the pre-roll tube is a whole separate piece.

Matt Baum:
[crosstalk 00:26:24].

James Eichner:
And again that original design was made to work with the hemp biocomposite. Now we’ve moved over to a pop-top for the reclaimed ocean plastic. We’re able to reduce our material use by 25% while also increasing the length of the pre-roll tube from 110 millimeters to 116 millimeters. And also moving into a larger production scale mold. All of that combined also allowed us to drop our price by 30% compared to our previous reclaimed ocean plastic pre-roll tube. It’s a huge step forward for us. And we hope it’ll be a real game changer just because it’s a really common form factor. And because it’s that much more price competitive, we really hope that it’s a no-brainer for folks that perhaps earlier were a little scared off by the inevitable price premium that comes with sustainability.

Matt Baum:
Potentially stupid question, where does one go to pick up ocean-reclaimed plastic? I mean, coming from Nebraska, I would know where to start, but are you hooked up with a group that is literally pulling plastic out of the ocean? Or are there suppliers? I have no clue how this works.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
We’re working with a network called Oceanworks and they basically have network of processor, cleaners, and sorters that they work with to go out and certify this material. Ocean plastic, like any other products, recycled product, there’s the varying levels and degrees of the quality, types and all of that.

Matt Baum:
Of course.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Beyond just saying, it’s ocean plastic there’s certain grades of material that we need, certain type of material. We have some needs around cleanliness, so FDA approved material.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
And so making sure that that is all up to snuff and basically that our manufacturers are getting what we say it is, and the customer is getting what we say it is. And just a way that we can ensure the quality of the product.

Matt Baum:
And I assume it’s just very similar to recycling plastic more or less. You’re melting it down, you’re pouring it into your mold and it cools and I mean, is it more or less work than just bringing in new plastic?

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Yeah. I think not necessarily more or less work, from a theoretic level you’re correct, right? Materials being extruded into a mold.

Matt Baum:
Right.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
But the biggest problem is the quality of the material, right?

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
If with virgin material designed to perform a very specific way, if the recycled content or reclaim content has any variability in it, that variability might show up in the part.

Matt Baum:
Sure.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
This is one of the big reasons why you don’t see a lot of recycled and reclaimed material used amongst major consumer products because in the traditional world where price is everything, if you’re going to get let’s just say two out of every 1000 units have a blemish or something, right?

Matt Baum:
Right.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
That might be enough to tip the scale, to say, “Let’s work with virgin material that oftentimes it’s going to be less expensive.”

Matt Baum:
Yeah. That’s the nightmare of recycling, right? Because my wife and I recycle, my neighbors all recycle, and we’re sending all this plastic to be recycled and you don’t have major plastic corporations using recycled plastics for just that reason.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
I mean, this is the big thing with it, right? If we’re going to recycle, we have to close that loop the best we can. The backend of that is that companies are going to be working with this material. They’re going to pay more for it. They’re going to deal with the inconsistencies that could show up. But that’s what we’re doing as a company, right? Like this idea of producer responsibility versus consumer responsibility, right?

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

Ron Vasak-Smith:
Both of those have to work together. The consumer has to recycle the producer has to work with the material that has been recycled.

Matt Baum:
Well, and let’s be real. I’m not going to go to the grocery store to pick up my detergent or something and be like, “Oh, well that, bottle’s not as orange as I remember. I think I’ll buy the competition.” No, and nobody cares. It’s preposterous. But we got off subject a little bit there. I think it’s amazing what you’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, but what is next for Sana Packaging? Where do we go from here? I mean, you don’t have to divulge secrets or anything, but-

Ron Vasak-Smith:
The big trade secrets [crosstalk 00:31:04].

Matt Baum:
… if you want to break some news.

James Eichner:
I’d say we’ve always been mission driven, but when we started the company, we were very focused on trying to tap into innovative material types and more sustainable material types. But the big thing that we’ve learned over the last, what is it? Four years, three or four years, is that materials and material innovation are really just one piece of the puzzle.

Matt Baum:
Yeah.

James Eichner:
In terms of where Sana Packaging is going, we ultimately view ourselves as material agnostic, meaning we always want to be able to tap into what we believe to be the most sustainable and best material available for the use cases that we’re trying to use it for. And the other big piece of the puzzle is our waste management infrastructure and not just waste management infrastructure, but all the other infrastructure around packaging and in our case specifically cannabis packaging. When we think of what’s next for us, it’s how do we affect that larger systemic change that needs to happen within the cannabis industry and the waste management infrastructure that aids the cannabis industry. And how do we change? How do we shift cannabis packaging from a linear economic model where it goes, take, make, dispose to a circular economic model where at the end of a product’s useful life, you’re recovering it as much as possible, reusing materials as much as possible, regenerating natural systems.

Matt Baum:
Right.

James Eichner:
And that’s what’s next is how to figure out how to make truly circular cannabis packaging. Because every step of the way we’re making incremental change towards it and moving toward circularity. But the big question is how are we going to make that ultimate leap and put those pieces into place and leverage our position in the industry to try and make that happen.

Matt Baum:
And once you build that model, I mean, it’s easy people here will what are they doing in cannabis industry, whatever. But once you build that model and show, you can do it in this industry. There is no reason why you can’t apply that across the board to any industry. There’s no reason why once you get a model like that working, we can’t go into Walmart and buy groceries in a bag made of hemp plastic, or something, or reclaimed plastic, or get your food from McDonald’s in a responsible package. I mean, that’s ultimately where this goes. I’m not saying go shop at Walmart, go shop at McDonald’s, but it’s models like these when you can scale up and change the frigging world. And I think it’s amazing what you guys are doing. Not bad for a couple of stoner bombs from college that came up with a project. Nicely done for a couple of grad students.

Final thoughts from Matt

Matt Baum:
I will have links to Sana Packaging and more about Ron and James in the notes for this episode. Speaking of which here at the Ministry of Hemp, we believe that a more accessible world is a better world for all. So you will find a full written transcript for this episode in the show notes as well.

Matt Baum:
Thanks again for hanging out with me for another episode, I hope you learned something and you might have questions about what you heard or you might have questions about something you heard on another episode, or maybe you just have questions. Call me, let’s talk about it. 402 819-6417 is the number to call and you can leave your message. And we will answer your questions right here on the show. We do Q&A shows where I bring in other people that worked for ministryofhemp.com, my buddy Kit, he’s the editor in chief, Desiree, our videographer, and sometimes Drew our brand manager all show up. It’s a great time. And we love to answer your questions.

Matt Baum:
You can also shoot me an email with an MP3 or just written question to [email protected] Speaking of ministryofhemp.com, head over there and check out our review of a CBD honey put out by one of our favorite brands, Populum they were delicious CBD raw honey. We’ve also got your CBD gift guide for Christmas. It’s coming down to the wire. If you’re going shopping, you’re going to want to get it done now. Check out our CBD gift guide. And we have a great guest post about wholesale hemp flour, and about getting into the CBD business, if you’re interested in that.

Matt Baum:
And if you like the content on this show and the stuff that we put up on our site, the best way you can help us is to head to patreon/ministryofhemp and become a Ministry of Hemp Insider. Any amount you give, makes you an insider, gets you access to podcast extras, to early articles and all kinds of extra stuff that we put up on our site and on our show, but more important than that, it helps us to bring hemp education to people that want to hear it and needs to hear it. We’re trying to change the world here folks. We need your help, go to patreon/ministryofhemp become a Ministry of Hemp Insider. That about does it for me, and I like to get out of here the same way every week, by saying, remember to take care of yourself, take care of others and make good decisions will you? This is Matt Baum with the Ministry of Hemp Podcast signing off.

A collection of hemp plastic packagiing and packaging made from ocean plastic, designed for cannabis and hemp products, including jars and

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