There are a number of environmental issues involving the production of sandpaper, ranging from the processes used to mine the materials that make up the “grit” to the chemical properties of adhesives. Most “sandpaper” contains neither sand nor paper. Garnets have traditionally been used for the production of sandpaper used in woodworking, often gleaned from waste products that come from heavy industrial sandblasting. However, less than 1% of sandpapers on the market contain natural materials. Most sandpaper, especially the heavy-duty stuff used in manufacturing processes, consists of synthetic materials such as aluminum oxide. The production of these chemicals is as energy-intensive and results in some toxic wastes, though probably not more than other industrial processes. The adhesives used in sandpaper are also generally environmentally unfriendly, as is true with most synthetic adhesives. I’m not sure what alternatives exist to the current manufacturing processes of sandpaper; unfortunately it’s one of those products that, in order to remain useful, is difficult to transition into organic or more eco-friendly production methods.
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