It’s a problem that cannabis consumers experience firsthand, as well. Some higher-end brands can afford to adopt biodegradable alternatives like Puffin’s glass doob tubes, but regulatory demands and simple economics dictate that the vast majority of products one can legally purchase to get high come packaged in synthetic, single-use plastics.
While plastic’s hardiness may be handy for child-proofing our edibles and keeping sandwiches fresh, it becomes a problem once it’s disposed of in the natural environment — as 91 percent of plastics are — where it can take 500 years or more to degrade.
Before then, it enters landfills, suffocates ocean ecosystems and breaks down into carcinogenic microplastics, which have already been found in creatures from the bottom of the ocean to an estimated 93 percent of American humans at the top of the food chain.
“This type of packaging always involves plastic, and there are no good solutions,” Stefano explains, “save extremely expensive [bioplastics], which most operators simply can’t afford.”
Co-founders James Eichner and Ron Basak-Smith of Sana Packaging are trying to change that. In 2018, the Colorado-based startup became the first to market what seems the most obvious and marketable solution to cannabis’s packaging problem imaginable: hemp plastics.
But as conscientious processers like Stefano already know, hemp and other plant-based bioplastics can’t yet compete with conventional plastics when it comes to price, which makes all the difference in a competitive and oversupplied market like the cannabis market in Washington state and elsewhere.
This price difference has less to do with the plant itself than its fraught history and the resulting lack of commercial mechanisms necessary to get it to consumers, and then to the appropriate processing facilities.
“Right now, it’s kind of the chicken and the egg thing. There isn’t a preexisting supply chain or a playbook for what we’re doing,” explains Eichner. “When you’re looking at plastics, you have to realize you’re not just competing with the material — you’re competing with crude oil.”
While petroleum long ago became our default source of cellulose, plastic’s basic component, hemp — a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis grown for diverse industrial purposes — is the most concentrated producer of cellulose we can grow — and, like most plants, it removes carbon from the atmosphere.
"Hemp plastics are also non-toxic, pesticide-free, recyclable and biodegradable within six months, not to mention both lighter and 3.5 times stronger than common polypropylene.”
But hemp-based plastic has a way to go before it can practically replace its petroleum counterpart. The global supply chain for crude oils used to make conventional plastics is the most sophisticated (not to mention aggressively maintained) on the planet. In contrast, industrial hemp’s federally illegal status only began to shift following the state-by-state normalization of its recreational sibling, finally gaining approval for commercial production in the 2018 Farm Bill — it is an infant industry competing with a mature specimen.
“I think hemp and other bio-based resins can effectively compete today with traditional resins,” writes Corey Kratcha of c2renew, a biomaterial designing company in North Dakota for whom hemp is one of many agricultural inputs. “However I think there needs to be a shift in thinking among molders and manufacturers that bio-based resins can be used in most applications.”
Increased media coverage and legislative efforts like the straw and plastic grocery bag bans have combined to make plastics what Eichner calls a “sexy issue” in recent years. It wasn’t quite as sexy in the early days of the legal cannabis industry, when he and Basak-Smith first developed Sana’s concept as grad students at Boulder in 2016.
“[The cannabis industry] was growing so fast that the main thing people were concerned about with packaging was whether or not it was compliant with regulations,” Eichner explains. “Those regulations were not centered around sustainability.”
Sana Packaging remains a two-man operation today, primarily relying on third parties to stay nimble for the many legal determinations still to come, from the prospect of interstate pot commerce to individual states’ hemp designations and California’s still up-in-the-air packaging regulations.
At present, their 100 percent plant-based plastic products like the Sana Container for flower and Sana Tube for pre-rolls are only 30 percent hemp.
The rest comes from corn, America’s cheapest and most common bioplastic component, evidence of the crop’s federal subsidization and research attention rather than any biological advantage over hemp, which requires less than half the water of corn, sequesters more carbon and grows to maturity quicker.
"Industrial hemp will likely go the route of most commodified crops,” says Kratcha. “As the market grows and builds, farmers will likely start to plant more acres and the market will start to go the route of commonly traded inputs.”
As well as looking forward to decreased costs and improved process facilities, Sana’s co-founders also hope regulators can level the playing field for bioplastics by enforcing “negative externalities” on their competitors — essentially attaching a dollar value to the environmental tolls petrol-based plastics extract from governments and taxpayers, remediating their pollution down the line. They also point to a need for better legal and semantic distinctions for bioplastics — currently, any product with more than 25 percent biomass can be labeled as such — or even a seal of authenticity tracing their source.
“To make bioplastic and have it perform the way packaging needs to, it really needs to be a single source of material,” Basak-Smith says. “We’ve gotten it all domesticated, and now we’re honing in on being able to localize it.”
Localizing supply chains is difficult but crucial to Sana’s mission of creating packaging that heals its environment, so they don’t come to rely on the same fossil-fueled transport and shipping systems that they’re trying to subvert.
And therein lies the challenge for all plastic-aware businesses and individuals in the current age — even with Earth’s future at stake, petroleum, plastics and the convenient storage and energy solutions they represent are so embedded in our global economy that the answer isn’t as simple as going cold turkey. It entails collectively reevaluating the way we produce, package, distribute and dispose of most commodities, from the current linear model — take, make, dispose — to a more circular, regenerative one, for which local sourcing and waste recovery are the biggest missing links.
“If you start designing packaging or anything, really, with how it’s going to be recovered in mind,” Eichner says, “that’ll shift the way you think about everything.”
That’s the broader paradigm shift Eichner and Basak-Smith have their eyes on, at least. The cannabis industry — still being built from the ground up and full of competitors seeking novel ways to package and differentiate products — just presents the most opportune and poetic first frontier for the plant they think can wean us off our unsustainable oil dependency.
The basics: Hemp can provide two types of fuel.
1. Hemp biodiesel – made from the oil of the (pressed) hemp seed.
2. Hemp ethanol/methanol – made from the fermented stalk.
In this day of oil wars, peak oil (and the accompanying soaring prices), climate change and oil spills such as the one in the gulf by BP, it’s more important than ever to promote sustainable alternatives such as hemp ethanol and biodiesel. Hemp turns out to be the most cost-efficient and valuable of all the fuel crops we could grow on a scale that could fuel the world.
To clarify further, ethanol is made from such things as grains, sugars, starches, waste paper and forest products, and methanol is made from woody/pulp matter. Using processes such as gasification, acid hydrolysis and enzymes, hemp can be used to make both ethanol and methanol. Bio-diesel is made from oils and fatty acids in plants and animals.
What is Hemp Biodiesel?
Hemp biodiesel is the name for a variety of ester based oxygenated fuels made from hemp oil. The concept of using vegetable oil as an engine fuel dates back to 1895 when Dr. Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. Diesel demonstrated his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 using peanut oil as fuel. Even Henry Ford built his first cars to run on Bio-diesel. Hemp biodiesel comes from the pressing of the hemp seeds to extract the oil. Through a process explained here, hemp biodiesel can be made.
Hemp biodiesel can be made from domestically produced, renewable oilseed crops such as hemp. With over 30 million successful U.S. road miles hemp biodiesel could be the answer to our cry for renewable fuel sources. Learning more about renewable fuels does not mean we should not cut back on consumption but does help address the environmental affects of our choices. There is more to hemp as a renewable fuel source than you know
Why Hemp Biodiesel?
As the premier plant fiber, True Hemp or Cannabis sativa has served mankind for thousands of years. This venerable fiber has always been valued for its strength and durability. Materials made from hemp have been discovered in tombs dating back to 8,000 B.C. Christopher Columbus sailed to America on ships rigged with hemp. Hemp was grown extensively in colonial America by numerous farmers including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag from hemp. In fact, its combination of ruggedness and comfort were utilized by Levi Strauss as a lightweight duck canvas for the very first pair of jeans made in California.
For thousands of years hemp was traditionally used as an industrial fiber. Sailors relied upon hemp cordage for strength to hold their ships and sails, and the coarseness of the fiber made hemp useful for canvas, sailcloth, sacks, rope, and paper.
Hemp fiber is one of the strongest and most durable of all natural textile fibers. Products made from hemp will outlast their competition by many years. Not only is hemp strong, but it also holds its shape, stretching less than any other natural fiber. This prevents hemp garments from stretching out or becoming distorted with use.
Hemp may be known for its durability, but its comfort and style are second to none. The more hemp is used, the softer it gets. Hemp doesn’t wear out, it wears in. Hemp is also naturally resistant to mold and ultraviolet light. Due to the porous nature of the fiber, hemp is more water absorbent, and will dye and retain its color better than any fabric including cotton. This porous nature allows hemp to “breathe,” so that it is cool in warm weather. Furthermore, airÍ which is trapped in the fibers is warmed by the body, making hemp garments naturally warm in cooler weather.
As a fabric, hemp provides all the warmth and softness of a natural textile but with a superior durability seldom found in other materials. Hemp is extremely versatile and can be used for countless products such as apparel, accessories, shoes, furniture, and home furnishings. Apparel made from hemp incorporates all the beneficial qualities and will likely last longer and withstand harsh conditions. Hemp blended with other fibers easily incorporates the desirable qualities of both textiles. The soft elasticity of cotton or the smooth texture of silk combined with the natural strength of hemp creates a whole newgenre of fashion design.
The possibilities for hemp fabrics are immense. It is likely that they will eventually supersede cotton, linen, and polyester in numerous areas. With so many uses and the potential to be produced cheaply, hemp textiles are the wave of the future!
Hemp is a plant grown in the northern hemisphere that takes about 3-4 months to mature. Hemp seeds can be consumed or used to produce a variety of food products including hemp milk, hemp oil, hemp cheese substitutes and hemp-based protein powder.
Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. Hemp milk is made from hulled hemp seeds, water, and sweetener. Hemp oil has a strong "grassy" flavor.
Hemp is commonly confused with marijuana. It belongs to the same family, but the two plants are very different. Marijuana is grown to contain high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that is responsible for its psychoactive properties. Hemp describes the edible plant seeds and only contains a trace amount of THC.
This feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of hemp and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more hemp into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming hemp.
Nutritional breakdown of hemp
Hemp is available in a variety of forms, including oils and powders.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 2 tablespoon serving of hemp seeds weighing 20 grams (g) contains:
Hemp seeds also provide vitamin C, some B vitamins, and vitamins A and E.
Benefits of Hemp in Building Construction
Hemp can replace synthetic, petroleum based and other high embodied energy materials to produce high performance products are better for the environment, better for your health and your wallet.
How Hemp is Used in Building Construction Materials
The parts of the hemp plant currently used for construction are woody inner core (for hempcrete), the outer fibrous skin (for hemp fiber batt insulation) and hemp seed oil (for hemp oil wood finish and deck stain).
Hemp-Lime “Hempcrete” Building Envelope Thermal Walls
Hemp shiv or hurd is mixed with lime-based binder to produce a rigid material that is cast into walls, between or around structural supports. Hempcrete walls, When cured and finished, exhibit low toxicity and good vapor permeability while maintain a high degree of air tightness, good thermal insulation, and stabilizing thermal mass. This combination of properties, unique to hempcrete, combines to create a sustainable, healthy and comfortable indoor environment.
Hemp Fiber “Batt” Insulation
Hemp fiber is bonded into sheets that be formed and cut into a variety of dimensions then installed as semi rigid “batts” between structural framing as a direct substitute to fiberglass and many other typical insulation materials. Hemp fiber insulation exhibits higher insulation performance (R-Value) but less other beneficial characteristics than Hemcrete in its typical application.
Hemp Oil Wood Finish and Deck Stain
Hemp oil is pressed from seeds and processed to produce a coating that is easy to use, beautiful and durable. Product test results show that hemp oil based deck stain can outperform high end commercial products in resistance to weathering while containing very low levels of toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds), making it an excellent alternative to synthetic and petroleum based polymer coatings.
More hemp building construction products are coming!
Development of industrial hemp applications in the United States is accelerating so check back here for updates and more information.
Hemp paper is a valuable alternative to conventional paper made from trees, and could provide a more renewable source for much of the world’s paper needs.
The very first paper in the world was partly made from hemp, and as a plant, hemp is more suitable for paper as it has a higher cellulose and lower lignin content. Hemp paper is also much more eco-friendly and sustainable than tree paper, as hemp can be produced much quicker than trees.
However, much like hemp-based plastic, we can’t replace all of our massive demand for paper with hemp paper overnight. While hemp was recently legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, there’s still not enough raw material (hemp plants) available to replace all of our uses for trees. In addition, the technology for mass-producing the kinds of paper we’re used to buying, like printer paper, are still being perfected. At the same time, some great companies (see below!) are already working with hemp paper, and can print everything from business cards to hemp product packaging for you on it.
What is Hemp Paper?
Hemp paper can be made from hemp plants’ long bast fiber or the short bast fiber (hurd or pulp). Fiber paper is thin, tough, brittle, and rough. Pulp paper is not as strong, but is easier to make, softer, thicker, and preferable for most everyday purposes. The chemical composition of hemp hurds is similar to that of wood, making hemp a good choice as a raw material for manufacturing paper. The quality of paper is actually higher than wood, as hemp pulp is much better for paper than wood pulp. Hemp was widely used across the world in the 1800s, but declined in the early 1900s as hemp production and trading started to be prohibited.
History of Hemp Paper
Benefits of Hemp Paper
Hemp vs Trees – and how hemp can help solve the deforestation crisis.
Why Deforestation is a Serious Matter
According to the National Geographic, we are cutting down forests the size of Panama each and every year. Already in North America, we have lost 97% of the mature forest that existed when the European settlers came in the 17th century. The world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation. Although there are critics who claim that paper companies are planting fast-growing eucaplyptus trees after clearing the land, the replanting practices of logging companies are a poor substitute for natural forest as biodiversity and wildlife are destroyed.
The biggest impact of deforestation is the loss of habitat for millions of species. 70-80% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests. More and more species are going extinct every year because they lose their homes and since they become more exposed to hunters and poachers. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the original rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. At this rate, they are predicting that 30-50% of all species could possibly be facing extinction by mid-century.
As our forests disappear, climate change will only accelerate. Forests are vital to conserving the soil and maintaining our air by removing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen. The forests also keep the soil moist and help maintain the natural water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees and the canopy they create, our lands are quickly turning into dry desserts. Trees also help to absorb the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—increasing the speed of global warming.
The Future of Hemp Paper
Paper waste and deforestation are a massive problem, and hemp can be part of the solution. However, it will take years to develop the infrastructure for an alternative hemp paper industry that can really make a dent in the conventional paper industry.
One barrier is creating a large supply of domestic hemp. Currently, most hemp is imported from Canada or overseas, greatly increasing the cost. While the U.S. grew over 75,000 acres of hemp in 2018, and that number is expected to rapidly rise, most of that hemp was grown for CBD oil or hemp bodycare products. With full legalization of hemp, we hope to see more hemp grown for pulp. In addition, more paper mills will need to add hemp paper, including learning to adapt their machinery for hemp printing.
One promising path for the future of hemp paper? Some companies, like Tree Free Hemp and Hemp.Press, are experimenting with taking the waste products from other hemp products and turning them into paper. This means that someday, when you buy CBD oil, the box it comes in might be printed from hemp paper made out of the leftover plant material used to make the supplement itself.
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