Matthew Glyer is not just running a printing a company. He’s trying to save the world one piece of paper at a time.
At his company, Hemp Press, it’s not just about the printing, but the paper being used. And despite — or perhaps because of — being located in a state known for its forests and timber industry, what he uses is not the traditional tree-based paper that most people are familiar with, but a mix of recycled fibers and hemp designed to keep as many trees as possible in the ground.
“The ideal scenario here is to convert waste streams into a commercially viable mainstream sheet of paper,” says Glyer, the company’s founder and CEO.
While hemp can be grown and harvested annually, Glyer says trees cut for paper take 25 years to grow back.
Located in Eugene, Oregon, Hemp Press is a working print shop that specializes in business cards and product packaging. Hemp Press’s new facility is about 10,000 square feet, a major jump from its previous 2,500-square-foot home, which was, quite literally, a home.
“Before that, it was my living room and a ream of paper and my office printer,” he says.
Glyer, 33, says the company does a lot of packaging work for CBD and cannabis companies and says that in 2015 he engineered what he thinks was the first joint box, designed to reduce the number of single-use plastic tubes that pre-rolled joints often come in.
But Glyer says Hemp Press is probably most known for the Crutch Card, a business card printed on perforated stock that doubles as a smoking accessory. He says he often noticed that cannabis smokers would tear cigarette packs, rolling papers packages or business cards to create a crutch or filter on their joints and had an idea.
“What if we just designed business cards to do that already?” he thought.
He also made the cards out of hemp fiber paper, because while his business is printing, he has a higher goal in mind.
“We use the print shop for the funding mechanism for the advancement of plant-based paper, specifically paper made out of cannabis fiber,” says Glyer.
Glyer says he’s had thousands of customers for the Crutch Card, which gave his company a strong base and started thinking bigger in order to “do the big-impact stuff, which is packaging.” Glyer says a person may go through 500 business cards each year, but a company might use 50,000 boxes packaging a single product.
“That’s a lot of paper,” he says.
Currently, Hemp Press uses a mix of 25% hemp fiber mixed with 75% post-consumer recycled material. Glyer says post-consumer recycle is “not a good material.” After being recycled, the fibers lose integrity and are not viable for printing, especially for boxes or thick paper, he says. The hemp strengthens it. He uses the metaphor of steel adding durability and structure to concrete.
“The hemp acts as rebar in the paper that’s made out of post-consumer fiber,” says Glyer. “It takes trash and it makes it highly functioning trash in ways we haven’t seen yet by providing all that integrity.”
And while it may seem like a modern take on printing, Glyer insists it’s actually a very old concept, adding that the earliest paper discovered was made from hemp, mulberry bark and linen, not wood pulp.
“It’s the return to the original piece of paper,” he says. “This is all about sustainability in paper.”
Glyer currently sources his hemp fiber from Spain. It is sent to a U.S. papermill where it is mixed with the post-consumer recycle material and then shipped to Eugene for Hemp Press. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the drastic increase in hemp production through the country, Glyer hopes to find a domestic source for hemp soon, but his larger vision is not to grow fields of hemp specifically for paper, but to use the leftover waste stream from CBD processors who have tons of fiber waste they need to dispose of.
“We get an email almost every day from people asking if we can take their fiber post-CBD extract,” he says. “That’s something we want to respond to. We want to take your waste stream.”
Glyer admits that the hemp-based packaging can be more expensive — about 5 to 10 cents more per box — but the novelty and sustainability can be selling points.
“What would be cooler than having your cannabis product in a box made of cannabis?” he asks.
For Glyer, that’s also beside the point as he tries to take the industry back to the future for its packaging needs, save acres of forests and eliminate a growing waste stream.
“We are not a company that is all things to all people for the sake of trying to make the almighty buck,” he says. “This is about ‘how do we move this method of papermaking forward?’”