But was it really as propagated? Was it alright to assume that paper packaging was friendly to our environment?
Let us dig into the facts.
Paper sure has the ability to get recycled 6-7 times, but questions spring up when it comes to sustainability. Though looking harmless at first sight, paper production is very polluting and energy-intensive.
The statistics regarding water pollution from paper production are staggering:
- Production of one kilogram of paper takes up a whopping 323 liters of water.
- An A4 paper consumes about ten liters per sheet.
- The pulp and paper industry is placed at the fifth position when it comes to the consumption of energy. It accounts for 4% of the energy use in the world.
- Approximately, 50% of the world’s industrial logging is done for paper production.
- 33% of the papermaking materials come from whole trees and other plants.
- Every year, the pulp and paper industry emits over 100 million kilograms of toxic pollution.
- In the US alone, approximately 68 million trees are pulled down each year for making paper.
- The planet is losing an estimated 18 million acres of forest each year to paper, which equals 20 football fields every minute.
- In American landfills, paper rolls in close to 26% of municipal solid waste.
This is just a glance into the statistics, but it does drops hints to the story. What makes it worse is that the decaying paper disseminates methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Burning or composting of paper releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The statistics above inform you a bit about the deleterious impact of paper production – the number of trees cut and water polluted to produce the paper used for packaging. In this scenario, can paper packaging really be sustainable?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Conventional paper packaging – a threat to the ecosystem of the planet[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Reckless behavior of a few companies in the pulp and paper industry has left a large ecological footprint of destruction. Unhindered cutting of trees to provide for the demands of the industry has put trees in the Atlantic forest region, Borneo and Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Southern Chile, and the Russian Far East at risk. As the burgeoning population leads to even more demand, the threat will go up as well. The cutting is such a rapid pace that it doesn’t give time to the forests to recover. For a fragile ecosystem, the activities of the companies in the paper and pulp industry constitute an existential threat.
The vast forests, which symbolized biodiversity just a decade or two before, have been reduced as sparse reminders of the yesteryears. Unrestricted logging has put immense ecological value of these once-upon-a-time greentops in deep peril.
Though the primary source of pulp paper are coniferous and deciduous trees, companies don’t limit their logging in temperate regions which has abundance of pine forests thrive. In their quest to expand their business, they also conduct activities in tropical and boreal forests.
Community strife in several parts of the world, particularly Brazil and Sumatra, can be attributed to paper pulp industry, which used cash and kind to get permits to do logging in the land actually belongs to the indigenous communities. The conflicts resulted in unnecessary loss of lives and livelihood for the members of the populace.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Devastating result of deforestation[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Forests store carbon in wood, leaves, and soil which is released into the atmosphere when loggers cut down trees. Deforestation deprives a region of its ability to absorb CO2. Worse, indigenous people and animals, who are the inhabitants of these forests, lose their homes and source of livelihood.
A handful of companies, in the wake of environmental activism, pledged to restrict their activities, but the nature of paper packaging is such that any course correction will have only a limited effect. Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), for instance, fell forests in Indonesia for years, displaced rural communities, and destroyed the home of the Sumatran tiger. They deforested 4.2 million hectares of rainforest for their operations.
According to Greenpeace reports, 76-80% of logging in Indonesia is illegal. Most companies have turned a deaf ear to the appeals of environmentalists to exercise restraint in deforestation.
Rampant destruction of forests is destroying rich biodiversity which not only includes the trees, plants, animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and even humans depending on the forests. In a matter of years, many of the forests holding valuable biodiversity can be wiped out.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Replacing old forests with new ones is not always possible[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner disable_element=”yes”][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][tm_image align=”center” image=”13520″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]Neutralizing the annihilation of old forests, many of which are centuries old, isn’t just possible by growing new ones. To be successful to an extent, forests have to be grown thoughtfully, with the creation of biodiversity one of the main objectives. Fast-growing monocultures cannot be a substitute for an older forest’s biodiversity and rich soil.
The devastating forest fires of Portugal can serve as a good example of bad reforestation policies. The major cause of these fires was the plantation and mismanagement of Eucalyptus trees. Though these trees grow fast and become a great source of wood pulp, they hamper the ability of other types of trees to grow alongside them. Natural oils in Eucalyptus trees make them highly flammable.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Grave pollution of water systems[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Paper, a key component of our daily activities, requires humongous amounts of water in production phase. Laden with toxic wastes, this water is deposited into the surrounding water bodies in an utterly irresponsible way. Though developed countries have now installed systems for reducing release of toxic wastes in water bodies, not much change has happened in the developing world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
How can hemp act savior[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Hemp has the capacity to protect our forests from the unabashed exploiters of pulp, yet allowing them to make the profits they wanted. This is important as no one is generous enough to close their own business to protect the planet’s environment. The only pragmatic way to get them to do the needful is to assure them they won’t lose their profits, and hemp brings exactly that.
What responsible paper companies do is actively work on growing trees to cover for the loss of forests. However, trees generally take around 20 to 30 years to fully mature. It is a long time, but we can just wait for this duration for the forest to come up. Hemp, on the other hand, is ready to harvest in about 70 to 90 days, a whopping difference of time when compared to the growth of trees.
When it comes to cost-efficacy, the wood paper has simply no match with hemp paper. Here is an instance to help you understand the dynamics. The paper you produce from approximately 4,000 square meters of hemp is almost equal to the amount produced by trees grown over an area of 40,000 square meters in 20 years.
Lesser time to harvest translates into enough supplies for the paper manufacturers. Assured of the supplies, continued business, and cost-efficacy, they don’t hesitate in switching to hemp.
With hemp around, a sustainable ecosystem can be developed. Paper companies can enter into contracts with hemp farmers to buy all their produce. This will provide farmers a guarantee of a steady income, while the companies will get an assured supply of hemp to produce their paper from.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Advantages of hemp paper[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Both hemp fiber and pulp can be utilized for making hemp paper, though they are different uses. Fiber paper is long-lasting, while pulp paper, which is softer, is put in everyday use. Hemp paper is considerable better than wood pulp paper as not only the quality is better but manufacturing is easier as well.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Hemp paper bears a testimony to our history[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Contrary to what many think, hemp paper isn’t a new invention. The first known use of hemp paper happened in China way before 200-150 BC. Throughout history, hemp paper was humans’ first choice. It continued until the 1900s until many countries fell to the propaganda of other industries, who felt threatened by the potential of hemp and got hemp banned, under the pretext that it was an intoxicating element.
Thanks to its durability, hemp paper was preferred to wrap fragile and delicate items during shipment. Several manuscripts including the first printed bible ‘The Gutenberg’s Bible’ were written on hemp paper. Hemp paper was also used for the declaration of independence of the US. Many other ancient scriptures were also written on hemp paper.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Absence of harmful bleaching chemicals[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Manufacturers of wood pulp paper use chlorine to bleach the paper. While the procedure gives the paper a dash of gloss, it also releases poisonous gas dioxin into the air. There is no need for bleaching when producing hemp paper as it has a natural brightness. Using hemp for producing paper is both economical and eco-friendly for manufacturers.
Chemical binders are used as well in the conventional paper industry. Formaldehyde, a harmful chemical is released in the process, harming the environment. For producing hemp paper, soy-based binders can be used. Contrary to chemicals, natural binders are eco-friendly.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Organic lignin-fiber segregation[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Fiber has to be segregated from lignin present in the plant. To expedite the process, some manufacturers use mild chemicals, whose effects on the environment are negligible. If someone wants fully organic hemp paper, they may look for manufacturers who imply fully organic methods, making the segregation process fully devoid of chemicals.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
What makes hemp paper so durable?[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Structurally, hemp paper fibers are considerably stronger than those in wood pulp paper, which makes it so long-lasting. Naturally resistant to rapid fiber decomposition, this paper makes a perfect candidate for packaging purposes. If you have been using chemically treated acid paper for important documentation, it is time to switch to naturally stable hemp paper.
Hemp is among few plants which hold a very high amount of cellulose. 85% of the hemp plant is occupied by cellulose, while in wood, cellulose is just 30%. Thanks to the higher presence of cellulose, the durability quotient of hemp paper increases.
Thanks to its durability, hemp paper doesn’t begin turning yellow as early as wood paper. It is naturally strong, with an extraordinary ability to stands its shape and appearance for years. The difference in quality makes hemp paper different from wood paper right away.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Ease of growing[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]A major advantage of growing hemp is that it can be cultivated with ease. The investment of farmers falls considerably as the plant has little water or pesticides. They have to take into account the right genetics though that produces maximum pulp as it is meant for paper production.
Nature has endowed long roots to hemp, enabling to locate underground water from itself and minimizing any need to water the plant by the farmer. Hemp is a kind of plant that can grow in any type of climate. Moreover, you also save on the irrigation costs both for the state and the farmers.
Hemp is also naturally pest-resistant. Itself a weed, it can successfully fight other weeds as well. It makes things easier for farmers in multiple ways.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
A potent tool against deforestation[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Using hemp paper, benefits extend beyond high quality, durable paper. You also transform yourself as an environment warrior, preventing the cutting of billions of trees a year.
Humans take pride in the modernization they triggered in the last few centuries. The world became a smaller and more convenient place because of this drive, but we ended up paying a big environmental prize, almost destroying the very planet we live in. It is quickly becoming an existential threat to all the creatures living here. As the harbinger of this environmental degradation, it is our duty to rectify the mistakes we committed and turn the wheel around.
The wood pulp paper industry has been the cause of large scale deforestation across nations, destroying immensely valuable forests which were the storehouse of biodiversity. Millions of hectares of forests have been destroyed to provide for the paper industry and switching to hemp-induced paper will prevent this colossal loss.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]