By Jean Lotus
A hemp paper company headquartered in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, is manufacturing bags, stationary and packaging for clients who want to make a difference in their carbon consumption.
OG Hemp Paper sells more than 200 different products made of 100% hemp bast fiber to clients in 18 countries — such as Audi — and their paper is the official stationery of the office of London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan.
India’s historic use of hemp, and 200-year tradition of handmade paper making by Kagaz artisans, inspired former Kolkata brewpub owner Shailesh Ganeriwala, who wanted to start a hemp business that addressed climate change and deforestation.
“In terms of carbon footprints and climate-positive products, hemp paper is the best way to create change,” Ganeriwala told Let’s Talk Hemp. Employees of his company, OG Hemp Paper, call themselves “Gangsters that care.”
The company wants to decrease deforestation, as worldwide forests are being cut down three times faster than they can grow, Ganeriwala said.
The company’s mission also seeks to mitigate the effects of the world’s polluting paper industry, which pumps 200 million pounds of toxic pollution into the air and water each year.
In contrast, OG Hemp’s non-chemical degumming and processing of industrial hemp produces papers that are hard-to-burst and archival, and can be recycled up to eight times.
With a handmade paper factory in Kolkata, and mechanized factories in Germany and Spain, the company makes different grades of hemp paper for crafts, food packaging, boxes, bags, tags, and offset printing. The company offers white-label services for bags and packaging as well as notebooks and diaries, and hopes to expand into the consumer market.
OG Hemp Paper is small but seeks to grow, Ganeriwala said, targeting “corporate green gifting” companies and organic product manufacturers.
Lots of research and development went into engineering the right formulas for hemp paper, since the fiber has not been used recently for paper making. Hemp has very strong fibers, but also lignin content that needs to be broken down.
The company tested bursting strength and foldability to engineer the paper products in different grades. OG Hemp’s process does not use chemical bleaches to whiten paper pulp and break down lignin, but only uses non-chemical degumming, the company’s website says.
One challenge is finding enough quality raw materials locally in India, where the re-legalization of hemp has been slow. The company acquires hemp from the Indian state of Uttarakhand, where it has been legalized, but has more luck with specific fiber-grown hemp in Europe and North America, Ganeriwala said.
“There is a shortage in India at times which makes it hard to find the grade of bast fibers required for consistent paper quality,” he said. The company hopes that India’s government will understand the value of growing hemp and the economic opportunity it offers.
“We’d love to use more of the indigenous plant fiber that could be a boon for the hemp industry in the country,” he added.
Ideally, the company would like to expand into laminates and cardboard, where carbon-negative hemp pulp products could make even more of a difference in the world’s wood pulp production, he observed.
”At OG Hemp we are acting on the ground, making products that cause actual carbon reduction,” Ganeriwala said.
“We must realize that this climate thing is serious. Do we want to create havoc in our future generations? We must take a stand,” he said. “We want to let people know around the globe about the wonderful benefits of this crop,” he added.
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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.