Navigating the Green: A Comprehensive Guide to New York Cannabis Packaging

Navigating the Green: A Comprehensive Guide to New York Cannabis Packaging Sustainability and Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Content 


In recent years, the landscape of cannabis legislation has been rapidly evolving, and the state of New York is no exception. With the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2021, the Empire State has embarked on a journey to regulate and standardize various aspects of the cannabis industry. One critical area under scrutiny is cannabis packaging, with the state implementing stringent regulations to ensure consumer safety, product integrity, environmental responsibility, and now, a focus on post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.

Understanding the Regulatory Framework:

The New York cannabis packaging regulations are designed to strike a balance between protecting consumers, promoting responsible business practices, and minimizing environmental impact. These regulations have been enhanced to include specific requirements related to the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in cannabis packaging.

Child-Resistant Packaging:

  • To safeguard against accidental consumption by minors, New York mandates that all cannabis products must be packaged in child-resistant containers. These containers, in addition to meeting child-resistant standards, are now encouraged to be made with a minimum percentage of post-consumer recycled materials.  


  • New York places a strong emphasis on sustainability within the cannabis industry. Packaging materials must not only be child-resistant but also environmentally friendly. The state offers guidance on recommended minimum percentages of post-consumer recycled content, taking into account the type of packaging and its intended use.  Post-consumer recycled (PCR) content means content that was already used once by consumers, recovered and re-used in the packaging.  Bill Ludlow, CEO of CRATIV Packaging noted, A lot of plastic for post-consumer recycled content is available for re-processing and it’s time we get all of the plastic waste cleaned up”.


  • Did you know that glass has a higher environmental impact than plastic?  The mining of silica sand can cause significant environmental damage, ranging from land deterioration to the loss of biodiversity. Extracting sand for glass production may also have contributed to the current global sand shortage. Sand is the second most-used resource in the world after water – people use some 50 billion tonnes of “aggregate”, the industry term for sand and gravel, each year.  Its uses range from land regeneration to microchips. According to the UN, sand is now used faster than it can be replenished.  Glass requires higher temperatures than plastic and aluminum to melt and form, says Alice Brock, a PhD researcher at University of Southampton in the UK. Raw materials for making virgin glass also release greenhouse gases during the melting process, adding to its environmental footprint. According to the International Energy Agency, the container and flat-glass industries emit over 60 megatonnes of CO2 per year. It may seem surprising, but Brock’s study found that plastic bottles are less environmentally damaging than glass bottles. The manufacturing process is less energy-intensive, as there is a lower melting point for plastics compared with glass.  Recycled material is usually collected in a “single stream”, meaning all materials are mixed together. Single-stream recycling often complicates the sorting process, since glass must be separated from other recyclables and sorted by color, before it can be remelted. Often, it is too time-consuming, and therefore expensive, to separate mixed colored glass at a recycling facility.  Finally, Glass is heavier than plastic, resulting in considerably higher greenhouse emissions produced through transportation. Glass is less durable than plastic, which necessitates the use of secondary packaging materials for transportation. The production of these secondary packaging materials for glass produces even more greenhouse gases.  Bill Ludlow, CEO of CRATIV Packaging noted,  “Let’s stop beating up on plastic and focus on recovering it from our Earth and re-using it as a sustainable resource”.


Promotion of PCR Content:

  • New York is taking the lead on how to responsibly use plastic and promote cleaning up our Earth.  The regulations in New York actively promote the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in cannabis packaging.  Specifically, the regulations state that cannabis product packaging cannot be made of plastic, unless containing a minimum 25% post consumer recycled content. CRATIV Packaging is proud to lead the PCR sustainability packaging guidelines with the release of our 50% PCR packaging exceeding the 25% minimum requirement.


New York’s definition of post-consumer recycled content

  • Post consumer recycled content in the New York State Office on Cannabis Management guidance means new material produced using material resulting from the recovery, separation, collection, and reprocessing of material that would otherwise be disposed of or processed as waste and that was originally sold for consumption. It does not include post-industrial content, or material generated by means of combustion, incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, solvolysis, chemical recycling and any high-heat or conversion process.  CRATIV Post-consumer recycled material is recovered from plastic food-grade containers previously used in food packaging.


New York’s Retail Packaging Sustainability Program

  • Conditional licenses are valid for up to two years, at which time, if a licensee is found to be in good standing with the Office, the licensee can apply for and receive a standard license. At that time, licensees will be required to submit an environmental sustainability product packaging plan to the Board or Office. Such plans may include packaging materials exceeding 25% post-consumer recycled content.


Penalties for Non-Compliance:

Businesses in New York must be diligent in adhering to cannabis packaging regulations, including the incorporation of a minimum percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Failure to comply can result in severe penalties, reinforcing the state’s commitment to fostering a sustainable and environmentally conscious cannabis industry.



As the cannabis industry continues to flourish in New York, the emphasis on post-consumer recycled content in packaging is a significant step toward a more sustainable future. By incorporating these regulations into their practices and following state-issued guidelines, businesses can contribute to the growth of a responsible and eco-friendly cannabis industry in the Empire State, while meeting or exceeding recommended percentages of post-consumer recycled content.  See or email us at to learn more.


Brian Domann
Brian Domann
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