Continuing to use non-sustainable packaging material like cardboard and plastic is a bad ending for the earth. Here’s how hemp paper can fix that.
Did you know the first paper was made from hemp? And hemp paper was in fact thriving for many years.
But it all when downhill when lawmakers couldn’t see the difference between marijuana and hemp.
Anti-hemp laws were passed all over the world around the mid-’90s. And I believe that’s when everything changed.
Today, the world is a bit more accepting of hemp. And that opens the pathway to carbon-free earth.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency calculated that 82.2 million tons of packaging material were discarded in 2018. Unless an alternative is found quickly, landfills will overflow.
If you ask me, hemp paper packaging is the way to get rid of plastic and carbon in one fell swoop. But before we dive into how hemp saves the earth, let us talk about the true horrors of plastic.
The Woes Of Plastic Packaging
Plastics are extremely stable materials. No, this does not indicate the strength of the material. The more stable a compound is, the longer it takes to degrade.
So when plastic packaging ends up in a landfill, it stays there for years.
The chemicals added to plastic seep into the soil. This affects the soil pH and contaminates the groundwater.
The lifecycle of plastic
Dangerous To Workers
Producing plastic is a pretty dangerous job. Certain chemicals like lead, cadmium, and mercury are added to plastics to make them more durable.
Workers inhale these toxins, which could lead to chemical poisoning. This doesn’t only affect the workers. You and I also get exposed to these chemicals as well.
What’s worse, if you buy food packaged in plastic, the food can have particles of toxins in them. Though the chemical will be present only in trace amounts, it is still enough to cause serious harm over time.
A Carbon Footprint Like No Other
Plastic is not a simple thing to manufacture. There is a long process with tons of noxious gases.
But plastic lays destruction right from the starting seeds of its production. Plastics are made from fossil fuels, specifically, crude oil. The extraction of crude oil is no simple procedure.
Oil spills are extremely common. It is one of the most destructive occurrences to marine life. Let’s not even go to worst-case scenarios.
The oil is extracted from wells either in the ocean or on land. Gas leaks occur at wellheads very frequently. Then, when transporting the oil to a plant, leaks happen in the pipelines yet again.
Once the oil gets to the factories, it then is a long process to produce plastic. And carbon emission is through the roof during this process. For a quantifiable scale, it is predicted that from 2019 – 2050, plastic production will produce 56 billion tons of carbon.
That is no small amount.
Why Tree Paper Isn’t An Alternative
I know your immediate question after this would be “If plastic is so terrible, why not tree paper?”
One virtue that plastic has is that it is very durable. And, you can get more use out of a plastic bag than you can a paper bag.
Beverly Sauer, a chemical engineer said, “the impacts associated with plastic are generally much lower than the impacts for the mix of substitute materials that would replace packaging.”
Paper production is also responsible for rapid deforestation. This again contributes to carbon emission and climate change.
Why Paper isn’t any better
This made me very frustrated. I pondered if there was no better alternative than plastic. Then I found it…
Hemp And All Its Goodness
Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa that is grown specifically for industrial use. It has a TCH content lesser than 0.3%. For the layman, this means it won’t get you high.
It is a leafy plant that grows very quickly. It has over 20,000 applications. And each one is environmentally friendly.
You may still think hemp is being overestimated. I’ll give you some facts about hemp that will make your jaw drop.
Hemp is one of the fastest-growing crops. A full-sized plant can be grown in 4 months. Because it grows in such a short time, you can plant it twice a year.
If you were to make wood paper, then don’t hold your breath. It takes between 10-20 years for a tree to get to full maturity.
Now tell me, would you prefer sourcing pulp from trees or hurds from hemp?
Greater Cellulose Content
Cellulose is a compound that makes paper sturdy. It gives it durability and strength.
Hemp has 80 – 85% cellulose content. Tree pulp has only 30 – 50% cellulose.
If you can’t connect the dots, I will for you.
Paper made from hemp tends to last much longer than its tree counterpart. This is a good property for packaging paper, which is generally beaten and abused by the time it reaches the receiver.
Hemp hurds also has lower lignin than tree pulp. Lignin is a compound that makes paper turn yellow. Because of this, wood paper is usually bleached. But hemp paper is not bleached nor are excessive chemicals added.
We can produce 4 times more hemp paper than wood paper in the same area. And that is with a single harvest. Yes, you read that right.
Since hemp can grow in just 4 months, we can produce more paper in lesser time. This reduces the amount of forest land that needs to be converted into timberland.
I’m sure the fauna will thank us for that.
Hemp Is Easily Recyclable
The 3 R’s have been drilled into us since elementary school. Because of this, the recycling culture has taken off.
We all know paper is recyclable. But did you know we can only recycle it thrice? After this, the paper ends up in a landfill.
Hemp paper, however, can be recycled up to seven times.
Let’s not even go to plastic. It is only recycled once or twice before it is discarded.
Even in this round, hemp wins.
It is a Carbon Sink
Plants absorb carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. The science period taught this to everyone.
But you probably didn’t know this. Hemp is carbon negative. That means it stores more CO2 than is released while cultivating it.
The process of using plants to capture carbon is called carbon sequestration. Hemp can absorb 15 tons of carbon per hectare. The carbon is stored in the plant till it decays.
Since hemp has a long lifespan, it doesn’t decay quickly. So, even after we make the final product, it still stores carbon in it.
Remember when I said hemp can be grown twice a year? Well, that implies one hectare of hemp can sequester 30 tons of carbon a year.
A hectare of trees can capture 0.6 – 1 ton of carbon in a year. I don’t know about you, but that is a sizeable difference if you ask me.
Let’s not even go to plastic. We know that it is one of the largest carbon-producing industries.
Yet again, hemp is the winner.
If you’ve read the title, you’ll notice another keyword. HANDMADE hemp paper.
If you’re wondering why handmade makes a difference, I’m getting to it.
How Handmade Hemp Paper Can Make A Difference
Through all the arguments laid out above, I think we can conclude that hemp is the best material to make paper packaging from.
But why handmade hemp? Let’s do a comparison, shall we?
If you haven’t caught on by now, hemp is a plant. That means it is easier to harvest by hand.
A ton of energy isn’t spent on simply sourcing the raw materials. Unfortunately, for plastic and wood paper, sourcing the material is a bit more lengthy process. And it can’t be done without heavy machinery.
Trees are usually cut into logs, which then have to be transported to the processing facility. Crude oil is transported via pipelines to plastic manufacturing factories. Hemp, being very lightweight, is the easiest material to transport.
For both plastic and wood paper, the energy spent is more than hemp paper. That implies more carbon is released into the atmosphere.
To make wood paper, the trees are de-barked and the wood is made into pulp.
The process is similar for extracting hemp pulp as well. The two fibers, short hemp hurds and long bast fibers, are separated. It is then soaked in water to get a pulp slurry.
Once the pulp is pounded, it is then left to dry and cut into sheets of desirable size.
It takes a two-level process to make plastics; polymerization and polycondensation. Both of these processes require catalysts to be successful. Some types of plastics need to be heated and cooled. This requires burning coal, which again contributes to carbon emission.
Handmade From Hemp Foundation
Hemp Foundation is the top hemp paper wholesaler globally. Our hemp is sourced from farms in Uttarakhand, India.
Not to toot my own horn, but I believe Hemp Foundation truly makes a multi-faceted difference in the world. The paper we make is made from 100% hemp. We use Himalayan hemp, which is known for its quality fibers.
But I don’t think that’s the true beauty of the Hemp Foundation’s products. We stand for a social cause. A fight for impoverished farmers’ right to live. We encourage villages in Uttarakhand to cultivate hemp, which can be grown naturally in that region.
The cultivation, processing of hemp, and making it into paper are all done by previously unemployed people. Hemp gives them a livelihood. The paper is processed and dried all by hand.
So, we not only aid an environmental cause, but we also aid a social cause.
Evolving into eco-friendly methods doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. First, introduce hemp packaging on a small scale. Once you see its benefits firsthand, you can transform your business into a completely eco-friendly one.