The Hemp Packaging Process
As more states legalize the use of medicinal and recreational cannabis for adults, the stigma around cannabis and related products like hemp are dissipating. Hemp is back in the spotlight as its sustainable characteristics are being recognized for its use in the packaging industry.
Hemp is a crop specifically grown to make paper, textiles, bio-plastics, and other materials useful in packaging. For those looking to reduce their carbon footprint or offset carbon emissions during the packaging process, incorporating hemp materials could help achieve your sustainability goals.
Benefits of Hemp
This once-popular cash crop is now back in business with the passing of the Farm Bill which legalized the commercial production of hemp. The hemp crop is proving to be very beneficial for farmers and environmentalists as hemp requires little water and no pesticides or fertilizers to yield a healthy crop.
Hemp grows to maturity in around four months and is restorative and regenerative to the soil, making it the perfect rotational crop. Hemp can be grown in almost any soil so it can be locally sourced, cutting out the need for transportation which often emits high levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gasses in the process.
Hemp is considered carbon neutral meaning it absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits during the production and transportation process. As hemp grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide and creates cellulose, a necessary material in traditional plastics like cellophane and rayon.
With advancements in technology, scientists are gaining a deeper understanding of how hemp bioplastics can help eliminate the need for traditional oil-based plastics. This is useful in the packaging industry as it means there is the potential to offset carbon dioxide emissions by switching from carbon-intensive plastics to bioplastics derived from hemp.
As hemp grows, it creates cellulose along with other compounds. The cellulose can be extracted and purified, however, the current process is long. As scientists continue to study this process, though, there is hope that the future of hemp bioplastic production will be much easier. These advancements are important because hemp bioplastics biodegrade in a matter of months and do not produce any carbon dioxide as it decomposes.
Soon, instead of relying heavily on plastics which take decades to decompose and emit tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere yearly, we can transition to more environmentally friendly materials for our packaging needs.
The Future of Sustainable Packaging
As a recyclable and compostable material, hemp is proving to be essential in reducing carbon emissions in the packaging industry. Growing hemp is also beneficial to healthy, biodiverse ecosystems and contributes to healthy soil. As hemp absorbs carbon dioxide and creates cellulose it is also proving to be a useful tool in advancing bioplastics.
While we collectively still rely very heavily on plastics in our daily lives, alternative packaging materials are beginning to make an impact on the size of our carbon footprints. And hemp is not just limited to bioplastics either. Hemp can be used in textiles to make eco-friendly bags or mailers and can be used to make paper products useful in the packaging industry.
As more consumers push for sustainable options in their shipping and packaging, companies can face their carbon footprint head-on by adopting sustainable alternatives like hemp into their packaging processes.