Not To Be Disposed: EcoWaste’s Arman Zeytounyan on Sustainable Marketplace Initiatives in Cannabis Waste Management

Since entering the cannabis industry, I had never really given thought to cannabis waste management. The process of disposing of cannabis waste seemed rather perfunctory and merely part of the industry for strict adherence to compliance. Needless to say, I was totally wrong.

In a phone conversation with CEO and cofounder Arman Zeytounyan, I learned about some of the fascinating initiatives EcoWaste is taking on in the cannabis waste management field. The Los Angeles-based company has been staking their claim in California’s cannabis industry since 2018— and they’re just getting started.

Between licensee education, innovative waste rendering solutions, and developing a new pipeline for cannabis waste to be recycled into biomass or products, EcoWaste is honing an approach to waste management that will elevate compliance while reinventing the value of cannabis waste in the marketplace.

Can you tell me a bit about EcoWaste and what services you provide? How did the company get started?

EcoWaste is a cannabis waste company. We provide cannabis waste solutions for the entire supply chain. My business partner started a medical waste management company in 2011. I joined him in 2016 and we opened EcoWaste to actually transport food waste. At the end of 2017, we started getting phone calls for cannabis waste. At that point, we decided to look into it more, started talking to some friends, and then went right into it.

Did you find it easy for EcoWaste to make the transition into the cannabis industry?

Super easy. I mean – being in the medical space – we already knew how to deal with compliance, transportation, logistics, and disposal. We knew how to deal with all of it. It was completely seamless to integrate into our existing operations.

I read that, in 2018, one of the top cannabis cultivation violations was in waste management. It seems like companies weren’t documenting all the products they were disposing. Do you think that’s changed since now? Outside of pickup and disposal, has EcoWaste offered any programs to help companies with the compliance side of their waste management?

I think that there’s still a lot of work to be done as far as making sure that licensees are even aware of cannabis waste management and follow the practices that put themselves in compliance.

Outside of trying to educate, we are working on solutions to make their lives easier prior to EcoWaste coming. Before EcoWaste comes for pick up, there’s still responsibility on the licensee to render the waste: to make it unusable and unrecognizable. This is a big gray area in our industry.

It’s the most common question we get: “how do we render our waste?”. We’re working on creating a product that will solve that issue outside of just labor. We want to make it so that the customer can easily do it themselves and at that point, our driver can come out and do the hauling.

With regards to sustainability, the law dictates 50% of cannabis waste must be paired with other waste in order to prevent potential flow into illegal markets. What are your thoughts on that rule? Is there a better solution?

I think that rule is a little exaggerated. In California, they actually removed that from the regulations. I do think that rendering is required. I do believe in enforcing that part of it. But definitely— there could be a better way of doing it other than using 50% of a non-cannabis material.

Right— that brings me into a differentiation that I looked into: landfill composting versus recyclable composting. Do you think that recyclable composting should become more broadly instituted? I’m thinking it would be cool if cannabis waste services could help companies become both compliant and sustainable through the practice.

That’s kind of what we already currently do. There’s state law that requires organic waste to be diverted from landfills. A lot of these landfill facilities already have composting facilities as well. I definitely think there’s room for the cannabis space to participate in sustainability. We’re looking at establishing partnerships and relationships with other facilities that are turning organic materials into renewable energy sources.

I like that EcoWaste is putting an emphasis on the production line between cannabis waste material that has recyclable value and companies that are interested in recycling it. That’s a fascinating point to this discussion I didn’t think about.

Exactly! That’s the tough part. We sent out numerous samples to companies and manufacturers to create some type of commodity that could be put back into the supply chain and maybe replace non-recyclable material. There are a few challenges. Bigger companies that have the technology, but no cannabis license or marketing arm are little bit slower to react and might not invest if they don’t have an assurance on the return.

Do you see any other current issues in the cannabis waste management field or the process for waste to be streamlined into production again?

We need to make sure the waste streams are properly organized onsite. As far as the backend of it, it’s just a waiting game right now. Once these bioenergy facilities see the value in it, start investing, start getting built out and doing it, we’ll start to see more of an acceptance of cannabis biomass being deposited into their facilities. As far as cannabis products, it’s the same thing.

It’s interesting that EcoWaste is taking the approach to reconfigure the integration and role of waste management in the cannabis industry.

That’s the beautiful part— it’s so new. It allows for the opportunity to establish that potential.

What are your thoughts on technology and capacity to help strengthen the production and retail sectors of the cannabis industry and the waste management field? Any thoughts specifically about Outspoke?

The best tech would be software tech that has the ability to record and monitor everything, from track and trace to waste. As far as Outspoke, the value would be in determining on the retail side if something is expired. That connects our two worlds. You can monitor products, their information, and the disposal side to it.

You can get in touch with EcoWaste via their website and also find them on Outspoke.

Matt Dell is a writer for Outspoke and Outcrowd Group.