From College Grads to Environmental Heroes
August 6, 2018
James Eichner and Ron Basak-Smith, like many other grad students at the University of Colorado-Boulder, worked as a team on a class project in Sustainable Venturing and Business Plan Development in the Fall of 2016. While many grad school projects never materialize past graduation, Eichner and Basak-Smith’s vision blossomed into real opportunity – not only for themselves, but an opportunity for the hemp industry, cannabis retail, the American farmer, and the environment.
Envisioning a way to revolutionize the cannabis packaging industry, the duo spent the last two years making the transformation from ordinary college students to environmental stewards leading the way to a brighter future. Like Superman over a tall building, Sana Packaging is soaring into success with a cleaner, greener solution to compliant cannabis packaging.
CannabisTech had an opportunity to speak with company co-founder and CSO, James Eichner, this week about their climb to fruition.
Addressing a Common Packaging Issue
As college students and legal cannabis consumers, Eichner recalled, “We essentially started as disgruntled consumers,” referring to the extreme amounts of plastic packaging required by cannabis compliance regulations. Regardless of the type of plastic used for cannabis packaging, regulations prevent recycling because there may be “residual drug residue” on the package itself. So often, consumers collect a stockpile of drams and tubes, creating a moral dilemma - to simply toss them in the trash and contribute to the unbridled plastic waste problem across our country and in our oceans, or continue to store them indefinitely because they can’t be recycled.
According to statistics on Sana Packaging’s website, only 9% of plastics have been recycled and nearly 79% ends up in landfills and throughout the environment. Despite the fact that 51% of solid waste is compostable, only about 5% actually is.
Determined there must be a better approach to safe, efficient, and environmentally-friendly packaging, Eichner said, “We began asking questions like ‘What alternatives existed?’” Admitting that hemp wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of their research, as they continued down the rabbit hole, they stumbled into an epiphany which would deliver a one-two punch - providing a boost to the US hemp industry, while supplying a regenerative, eco-friendly packaging solution to the cannabis industry.
Being chosen by CanopyBoulder, an accelerator for ancillary cannabis businesses, set their project on a fast-track to success. One of just eight startups chosen to receive a $30,000 investment from the venture capital firm, Sana Packaging started delivering their first shipments to customers across North America last week to clients in Colorado, Oregon, California and even British Colombia.
100% Plant-Based, Sustainably Sourced Hemp Plastics
Sana Packaging’s flagship products, which are 100% plant-based and chemical-free, are comprised of 70% corn resin infused with microtized hemp hurd. However, Eichner pointed out, as the company continues to grow, they hope to increase the hemp to corn ratio in their plastic formula in hopes to reinvigorate US agriculture, as well as, tap into the rapidly growing hemp industry.
Sana’s plant-based packaging research and development revealed hemp provides a number of benefits as a resource crop:
Shorter Growth Cycle – Hemp grows to maturity in just 80-90 days, less than corn or cotton.
Less Water Usage – Hemp requires much less water than other crops.
More Fiber Per Acre – Hemp can produce almost 3 times as much fiber per acre than cotton.
Rejuvenates the Soil – As a powerful photoremediator, hemp can help remove toxins and replenish the soil of nutrients, making it an excellent rotational crop.
“Additionally, traditional corn cultivation practices are less than sustainable or environmentally conscious, so the ultimate goal is to move towards less corn and more hemp,” Eichner stated.
Eichner also explained during the interview, “Our hemp is sourced from a natural fiber processor in Kentucky who sources hemp throughout the United States through a number of farms participating in various state pilot programs for industrial hemp including Colorado, Kentucky, and North Dakota.”
The hemp is processed into a powder in Kentucky and shipped back to North Dakota. Here, a research and development firm combines the processed hemp fiber with a corn-based PLA, or polylactic acid, into a specific consistency which allows it to flow through production scale molds without hampering the integrity of the plastic. Finally, the plastics are shipped to Minnesota and Arizona where the containers are molded, printed, and shipped to the client.
Sana Packaging has initially launched with two designs intended for cannabis retail.
The Sana Container – This unique, ASTM Certified Child Resistant design provides room for 3.5g of cannabis flower, or other products like concentrates, vape pens or edibles. Resembling a miniature storage tote, the small square container has plenty of room for compliance and retail labeling, as well as, a sliding lid which doubles as a rolling tray.
The Sana Tube – a versatile, child-resistant cylinder suitable for pre-rolls, vape cartridges, and disposable vape pens.
The future is looking very bright for Sana Packaging. Eichner admits, “We are just keeping our noses to the grindstone for the remainder of the year. We are focused on refining our processes and making sure we are delivering orders and fulfilling our promise to our customers.”
While the team at Sana Packaging may not leap over tall buildings in single bound, recognizing a crisis, they leapt into action to create a noble solution which could ultimately help save the planet. That’s about as close to Super Hero status as it gets.
About Sana Packaging
Sana Packaging designs and develops 100% plant-based hemp plastic packaging solutions for the cannabis industry. Sana Packaging is proud to be a “Made in the USA” company committed to supporting domestic agriculture and domestic manufacturing. Sana Packaging believes packaging should be regenerative and help heal the environment throughout its lifecycle. For more information, visit www.sanapackaging.com.