Greetings, Reader, and thank you for taking the time to read another one of my contributing articles to Cannabis Packaging News. In my previous articles I wrote about switching Cannabis oil packaging to Automation. Towards the end of the article I mentioned it is possible to reuse and recycle the priming fluid so it does not all go to waste. This article will be your guide to this recycling process, and how you can best integrate it into your current business model.
The priming process is extremely important for liquid handling automation. We prime an injection line by running Cannabis oil through it until the oil that comes out is the exact texture and consistency that we want in our cartridges. We also want to ensure that we run enough volume through the line so that any oil being dispensed contains no residues of the cleaning agents (usually ethyl or isopropyl alcohol) used to clean and preserve the line. Besides removing this solvent, priming ensures consistent quality of Cannabis oil from the very first pour. However, the downside of priming is it usually takes a relatively large volume of liquid to completely prime the line. With a product as precious and expensive as Cannabis oil, this volume very quickly adds up. So, it is important for your business to develop a process for reusing this product.
The main reason why we are not able to just pour the priming fluid right back into the storage container is that it has been mixed with alcohol. Alcohol levels are monitored in Cannabis oil for health and safety regulations, and cannot exceed a certain threshold in the packaged product. But alcohol itself is not harmful to the Cannabis oil; it does not affect or chemically alter the cannabinoids or terpenes in any way. All we have to do to reuse the priming fluid is remove the alcohol from the mixture, and then our Cannabis oil will back to grade A consumable product.
The best method forrecycling via alcohol removal is to run the priming fluid through a Rotary Evaporator. The ‘Rotovap’ is an instrument specifically used in the Cannabis industry for removing alcohol from crude extracts following Winterization. The Rotovap is a part of every company’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). I would recommend collecting enough priming fluid to Rotovap it separately from the crude Winterization extract, since the priming fluid has been through however many rounds of distillation your company performs and therefore is much more clean and refined.
Another reason to run the priming fluid separately is that they contain expensive (and tasty) terpenes, which could potentially be preserved or separated to themselves by reused. It is entirely possible that, following Rotovaping, your Cannabis oil may be ready to immediately reuse. That depends on the terpenes in your mixture and their boiling points, as well as the cleanliness of the Rotovap glassware. If, however, you want to be extra cautious with the consistency of your product, run the clarified priming fluid through the final distillation step of your SOP designed to remove ‘lights’ from the final product. ‘Lights’are low molecular-weight compounds—like terpenes—which are “lighter” than the Cannabinoids (THC, CBD) we are trying to purify.
When automating our Cannabis oil packaging process, there is no reason not to recycle your priming fluid. Putting your priming fluid through this process can recycle as much as 80% of the Cannabis oil! And with how much time and effort you went to obtain what you have, it is important not to let any of it needlessly go to waste.