Gaiaca Waste Revitalization is halfway through its first year of operation in a niche market in the waste disposal business. The Del Rey Oaks, Calif.-based company provides consulting, transportation, processing and disposal services for the cannabis industry.
“We’ve been assisting our clients over the past year, offering consulting through their application phase,” says Gaiaca Co-founder Garrett Rodewald. “We realized that waste management was a requirement consistently on all local business applications, however, nobody (both municipalities and applicants alike) seemed to have a plan for this. It appeared to be a much over-looked topic.”
The company, formed by three co-founders, brings together varied backgrounds that address the business of waste management for the cannabis industry, which is a growing challenge.
“My two partners provide Gaiaca with a holistic background from business experiences in both commercial real estate development and marketing/advertising specifically in the cannabis sector,” says Rodewald. “As far as my background, I've worked on the Monterey Peninsula as an Environmental Consultant for nearly the past decade. I have experience with EPA and OSHA regulation as it pertains to hazardous materials.”
After some research and brief research and development, Gaiaca Waste Revitalization and its fee-based cannabis waste business was born in March.
Gaiaca provides weekly pickup service of cannabis waste in 55-gallon polyethylene drums, which are kept in a secured location at the client’s facility to avoid mixing with traditional wastes. The cannabis waste is weighed, tracked and signed off on, and transportation is manifested every step of the way, says Rodewald. Gaiaca reweighs the waste upon arrival to its facility to ensure no tampering occurred during transport.
Gaiaca’s facility uses a proprietary fermentation/composting procedure where non-cannabis material consisting of organic material and other traditional yard waste is mixed with cannabis waste to create a state-mandated 50/50 blend until the final product is deemed unrecognizable. It then transports the rendered material to a local composting facility where it is processed into topsoil for landscaping, or donated for research purposes.
Waste360 spoke with Rodewald about what makes Gaiaca (Gaia in Greek Mythology, refers to the personification of earth) different from traditional waste companies and how the changing landscape of regulation and compliance impact the services it provides.
Waste360: What is the main objective of Gaiaca and how are you working to pursue it?
Garrett Rodewald: Our mission at Gaiaca is to help our clients operate at their full potential without having to worry about compliance. We have been diligently developing relationships with the state and local municipalities, as well as the local waste disposal facilities. Attending hearings, participating in public forums, and helping to both educate and spread awareness are a priority for all of us right now. The cannabis industry is so quickly growing and developing that things seem to change on a weekly basis. Keeping ourselves submerged and connected with both the community and regulatory bodies is the only way in which we can efficiently help our clients remain compliant in a quickly changing industry.
In 2018, when all operators are required to apply for their state license, those who have shown to be proactive regarding the environment and public health will undoubtedly be set apart from the herd.
Waste360: How are you getting customers where they need to be?
Garrett Rodewald: As operators build their business, we assist them in developing a compliant site-specific waste management plan (WMP). We also provide general environmental consulting services such as site inspections, water source/discharge testing, emissions testing, product sampling, etc. Once operators are up and running, we offer a subscription-based weekly waste collection service. All waste is removed from site and handled/processed in accordance with the most recent drafted state regulation, including but not limited to waste manifesting, track and trace, waste rendering, laboratory testing, security, and employee safety. Our main focus, and the reason behind the word ‘revitalization’ at the end of our company name, is to reduce environmental impact and keep the majority of cannabis waste out of the landfills. When and where possible, with exclusion to the hazardous types of waste, we strive to facilitate the composting or reuse of cannabis byproduct.
Waste360: Who are your customers and what do their waste streams look like?
Garrett Rodewald: Our clients include cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, dispensaries, distributors and laboratories. There are many different streams of waste associated with the cannabis industry. Waste from cultivators includes general plant debris (leaves, stems, trimmings, clippings, etc.), as well as different grow mediums. Waste from manufacturers and laboratories include post-extracted plant material, chemical waste, and cannabis product that has undergone extraction and distillation with hydrocarbon and alcohol solvents—a mixture of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Waste from dispensaries and distributors include expired goods ranging from raw cannabis flower to oils to edible food products in various types of packaging. Up until now, much has been unknown about cannabis-related waste. Gaiaca is proactively involved in the testing and characterization of these streams of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.
Waste360: What are your customers’ needs?
Garrett Rodewald: Although the many cannabis operators have differing streams of waste, their basic needs are simple: an ongoing WMP and a routine waste collection service. We developed the monthly subscription-based business model to include all types of operators and streamline the process as much as possible. Whether you're a grower or a testing laboratory, subscription with Gaiaca will fit your needs so you can focus on doing what you do best.
Waste360: What separates you from traditional waste haulers?
Garrett Rodewald: The short answer to that is, we are specifically licensed to transport, handle, and process cannabis material. The state draft regulation distinguishes those who can handle cannabis material, and furthermore render cannabis material into cannabis waste. Under the existing regulations, cannabis waste is currently considered a medical byproduct. This excludes most general trash companies from being able to handle it. Under the recently drafted state regulations, unwanted cannabis product must be rendered into cannabis waste with equal part non-cannabis material until it is made unrecognizable.
This is a task that a general trash service would not/and cannot conduct. Also under the state draft regulations, all cannabis waste must be thoroughly documented through a strict track and trace system; also a task that a general trash service would likely not conduct. Regarding hazardous waste, Gaiaca is registered with the EPA and the (California Department of Toxic Substances Control) as a hazardous waste hauler. This allows us to accept all types of cannabis-related waste.
Waste360: How much waste is generated by this industry?
Garrett Rodewald: The amount of cannabis-related waste generated in the State of California is vast. It is estimated that for every pound of finished cultivated product, there is at least one pound of waste generated. This is not even including manufacturing waste. Our average clients produce anywhere from 100 to 1,000 pounds of waste material per week. And after the state mandated rendering process, the amount of waste is effectively doubled. The majority of the cannabis waste generated, however, will be non-hazardous green waste.
Waste360: Why is Gaiaca better suited than a traditional solid waste hauler to handle the waste?
Garrett Rodewald: What differentiates this non-hazardous green waste material from the more traditional solid waste is that it contains THC and other cannabinoids (the psychoactive or medicinal property to cannabis). Even cannabis material that has undergone extraction and had its valuable oil removed, still has varying levels of cannabinoids and looks almost identical to product you would buy at a dispensary. Federally, this is still considered a Schedule One drug. It is important that the whereabouts of this waste are well-documented so that it does end up in the wrong hands.