Hemp paper is one of the most sustainable options when it comes to opt for a sustainable living. Over 93% of paper made in the present day is produced from trees. Given the fact that the world’s demand for paper is expected to double by the year 2030, it’s safe to say we must find an alternative to paper from trees immediately. Luckily, with the 2018 Farm Bill Act being passed, industrial hemp and it’s regenerative agriculture properties might just be what our planet needs to alleviate the damages we’ve inflicted on our forests. The very first paper in the world was partly made from hemp, and as a plant, hemp is more appropriate for paper as it has a higher cellulose and lower lignin content. Hemp paper is much more eco-friendly and sustainable than tree paper, as hemp can be produced much quicker than trees. It almost sounds too good to be true, when you learn the fact that hemp paper is not only good for our planet and contributes to the nature but it’s also a much higher quality paper. It also degrades much slower in comparison to tree paper. Hopefully hemp paper will begin to mitigate the demand for tree paper as farmers throughout the country develop the best ways to grow this incredible plant for its strong natural fibre.
How Hemp Paper is made?
The process of hemp paper manufacturing starts by breaking down the bast fibres contained within the plant’s outer stem layer which can be molded into the proper size and shape using a deckle, or a special frame designed for paper-making. This process is not much different than the way in which paper is made from wood, however it is more eco-friendly.
Benefits of Hemp Paper
Hemp vs. Trees
Hemp has lower lignin content than wood. Hemp contains 5-24% lignin whereas wood has 20-35%. This is advantageous as lignin must be removed from the pulp before it can be processed as paper.
Hemp paper is more durable than trees. Hemp paper does not yellow, crack, or deteriorate like tree paper.
1 acre of Hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees over a 20 year cycle.
Hemp stalks grow in 4 months, whereas trees take 20-80 years.
Hemp has higher concentration of cellulose than wood, the principal ingredient in paper.
Trees are made up of only 30% cellulose, requiring the use of toxic chemicals to remove the other 70%. Hemp, on the other hand, can have up to 85% cellulose content.
Wider use of hemp paper can help sustainability efforts to reduce deforestation.
History of Hemp Paper
The earliest form of hemp paper first appeared over 4,000 years ago in ancient China, when leftovers of hemp clothes were recycled to create a paper material. Hemp paper made it’s way to the Americas much later, with hemp plants taking root in Jamestown during the early 17th century. Following the arrival of hemp, it soon became a staple crop for farmers in colonial America.
Even early versions of historic documents like the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are believed to have been drafted on hemp paper since it was commonly used during this time period, although the final products are written on parchment. Hemp paper became less common in the United States in the late 19th century, when wood fibre from trees was discovered as a cheaper alternative for paper making. The paper industry from this point forward would be dominated by wood pulp, and hemp would lend its strong fibres to other industrial resources.
Despite the many historical uses of hemp, the crop became relatively impossible for farmers to grow after the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
This act placed an outrageously high tax on the sale of cannabis, including hemp, which the majority of people could not afford. A few years later during the height of World War II, these taxes were lifted to help supply hemp materials for the war effort, but this would also come to an end when the war was over in 1945.
For decades, hemp paper and other textiles had practically vanished from the American marketplace. However, recent legislation changes federally legalized agricultural hemp plants in December of 2018, and may lead the way for more domestic hemp cultivation and industrial uses in the future. People are now considering the possibility of hemp pulp as a replacement for traditional paper manufacturing practices.
Hemp Paper vs. Tree Paper
HEMP PAPER PLANET
When compared to paper made from wood pulp, hemp fibres present both pros and cons that prevent this plant from becoming the mainstream source for paper manufacturing. There are several key differences separating wood paper and tree free hemp paper, including:
More costly to produce, most likely due to the lack of available resources for hemp plant cultivation.
Hemp plants reach maturity within four months. Produces more pulp per acre.
Only 25 percent of hemp plants are desirable for paper manufacturing.
Can be recycled up to seven times.
Doesn’t require much chemical processing.
It can take decades for trees to grow before they are cut down and made into paper
Can only be recycled three times
100 percent of wood fibre is used to make paper products
Takes up more land and contributes to deforestation
Wood fibres are less durable than hemp
Paper is bleached using chlorine, a harmful environmental contaminant
Why Deforestation is a Serious Matter
Losing our mature forests
We are losing our beauty along with it becoming hazardous for our environment. The earlier views that we used to witness while travelling to the hills are gradually diminishing. The dis-balance that is created from deforestation would be harmful for all of us. The trees that are cut down have been providing us with oxygen, food and shelter for hundreds of years. Deforestation is continuing at an alarming rate. Once distributed over half the planet, forests now cover only a quarter of its land surface – and forest loss, particularly in the tropics, is continuing at an alarming rate.
The biggest impact of deforestation is the loss of habitat for millions of species. 70-80% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests. More and more species are going extinct every year because they lose their homes and since they become more exposed to hunters and poachers. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the original rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. At this rate, they are predicting that 30-50% of all species could possibly be facing extinction by mid-century.
Driving Climate Change
Beyond the tropics, there has been a major loss of old-growth forests and the substitute of natural forests and woodlands with single-species plantations that provide few of the environmental, natural and social benefits of native forests. As our forests disappear, climate change will only gather swiftness.
Forests are vital to conserving the soil and maintaining the required oxygen in the air by removing carbon dioxide. The forests also keep the soil moist and help maintain the natural water cycle by returning water vapour back into the atmosphere. Trees also help to absorb the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.
HEMP PAPER-THE FUTURE!
When compared to wood pulp, hemp pulp offers a four times longer fibre, with lower lignin portion and high tear resistance and tensile strength. Hemp can be used to replace almost all cellulose-based products that are currently being manufactured using trees, such as paper, and do it more efficiently and cost-effectively.
The industry is witnessing growth on account of increasing consumer awareness pertaining to benefits associated with hemp products. Overturning the current paper production system may take time, effort, and different set-up, but it’s possible, preferable, and the need of the hour. Handmade paper making like this is completely natural and organic as no chemicals or acids are used in the manufacturing process.
Hemp grows much more quickly than trees, taking only about 4 months to mature from the time it is planted. Therefore, it can produce more paper than trees per acre. Hemp is a highly resistant crop that requires negligible to no pesticides. It rather improves the quality of soil and underground water by extracting toxins. Handmade paper making like this is completely natural and organic as no chemicals or acids are used in the manufacturing process.
Planet Green Online