An invasion of cardboard boxes has stuffed the homes of America during the pandemic. We break down corrugated cardboard and stuff it into the recycling bin.
Cartoonist Benjamin Schwartz even remarked on the phenomenon in a New Yorker cartoon called “Gary basks in the glow of a 15-minute window with no cardboard boxes in the house.”
Of course, we are grateful for pandemic doorstep deliveries and the treasures that those boxes have contained, but what about the dead trees that were felled to make them?
Amazon, the source of those unending boxes, has supported a climate pledge and promised to go carbon negative by 2040.
Amazon, I’ll tell ya how to go carbon negative: Make those boxes out of hemp!
The hemp stalk’s miracle fibers are strong and have been used in some of humanity’s most durable papers for hundreds of years, including paper used in Benjamin Franklin’s printing press and paper handcrafted by Kagaz artisans in India.
Hemp grown for fiber is a cousin of the hemp grown for CBD.
The fiber for hemp paper can be grown in 90 days, as opposed to 20 years for pine tree farms. And while hemp is growing, it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and absorbs impurities from the ground in a process called phytoremediation. Hemp paper can be recycled up to eight times.
As a hemp journalist I have asked hundreds of hemp advocates, farmers and entrepreneurs “how can we get hemp to grow again in the United States?”
Processing is the bottleneck.
The nation’s only hemp fiber processing plant, Louisville, Ky-based Sunstrand, filed for bankruptcy in summer of 2020. They had plenty of customers for their hemp fiber products — including fiber for car panels for BMWs — but not enough farmers willing, or able, to grow hemp.
We need investors to build regional processing plants before farmers can grow fiber hemp. But we need hemp farmers to grow the hemp before processors can have enough product to sell.
It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. But Amazon could be the 500-foot chicken that solves it.
Already, some paper companies, like TreeFree Hemp in Colorado, are using hemp to make paper. Hemp inputs in the cardboard manufacturing process are not all that different from sawdust and wood pulp currently used. The supply is just not there.
This is why my Earth Day wish is for Amazon to step in to replace those dang cardboard boxes with sturdy hemp packaging. Sequester carbon. Help America’s farmers. Save the trees. Help build the hemp supply chain, Amazon, and we’ll all get to a carbon-negative world before 2040.
Jean Lotus is a contributor to The News Station, but this was first published in her new publication: HempBuild magazine.