The Shocking Link Between Paper and Hemp
The Crazy Connection Between Paper And Hemp
With the world being more environmentally aware than ever before, there is now a large focal point on conservation, and more specifically, paper conservation. Higher levels of greenhouse gases are detected every year, and plastered on every office printer room is a large sign, begging you to use paper more wisely and go green. What if we told you that the world may indeed have been a very different place if the Hemp industry was not beaten in the early 1900’s?
In 1916, agricultural scientists in America discovered that it was possible to make paper from hemp pulp. Not only did paper derived from hemp have more favorable properties, it also produced four times the amount of paper per acre compared to trees. Despite it providing a higher yield and being more environmentally friendly, by 1933 the production of hemp fiber was almost non-existent on a national scale. This certainly seems puzzling. Paper made from hemp fibers was used for more than 200 years, dating back to ancient China and the Egyptians. Even the declaration of independence was drafted on hemp paper before being copied onto parchment. So why the change?
The Reasons Wood Pulp Won:
Back when president Hoover was in power in the 1930’s, the owner of one of Americas largest newspaper companies, William Hearst, invested in thousands upon thousands of acres of woodland in order to provide enough pulp for the newspaper industry. Due to the size of his investment in timber, he tried to eradicate hemp as competition in the industry he sought to dominate.
He formed an alliance with DuPont, a petrochemical company that also provided the means necessary to turn wood fibers into paper through a sulfur based chemical process. After realizing the competitive opponent hemp posed to his investment, Hearst began an influential newspaper campaign to dissuade Americans from supporting the hemp industry. He portrayed hemp as an extremely dangerous and malevolent drug, weaving his agenda into the news in a way that would appeal to the racial fears of the time period.
His newspaper had a massive domino effect and happened to be one of the main driving forces behind the illegalization of the growth of plants belonging to the Cannabaceae family. While Hearst struck fear into the hearts of Americans to damage the hemp industry, his associates at the DuPont Corporation were pressurizing the United States congress to pass a bill that would impose sanctions on those who ‘sell, acquire or possess’ marijuana. Hemp, which looked similar, was then cast in a bad light due to the stigma around the family at the time. Essentially, the wood-pulp paper industry succeeded due to it being more profitable.
The world may have been in a vastly different state to what it is now should the hemp paper industry have continued as it was, and here’s why:
Hemp Vs. Wood Pulp
- Compared to its wood pulp counterpart, paper from hemp fibers resists decomposition and does not yellow or brown with age.
- It is also one of the strongest natural fibers in the world, one of the reasons for its longevity and durability.
- Hemp paper can be recycled up to 8 times, compared to just 3 times for paper made from wood pulp – not that recycling paper from hemp pulp would be necessary considering its veritable sustainability.
- Hemp has a much faster crop yield – it takes about 4 months for hemp stalks to reach maturity, while trees can take between 20 to 80 years. Not only does it grow at a faster rate, but hemp also contains a lot more cellulose This quick return means that paper can be produced at a faster rate if hemp were used instead of trees.
- Hemp pulp does not require bleaching or as many chemicals as wood-pulp. Using hemp instead of trees could dramatically decrease the number of toxins and chemicals polluting the earths water supply.
Now, this is not to say the continued use of trees in the paper industry is bad – in fact many companies are using sustainable techniques which have an almost neutral carbon footprint. It is however unfortunate that this was not always so. Should the combined efforts of large corporations hadn’t dissuaded industrial scale hemp paper manufacturing, we may have lived in a greener, cleaner world than we are in today.
The Shocking Link Between Paper and Hemp The Crazy Connection Between Paper And Hemp With the world being more environmentally aware than ever before, there is now a large focal point on
The Environmental Benefits of Hemp: Hemp Paper
By Emily Ledger
We could write a whole series of articles on the environmental benefits of Hemp – and that is exactly what we intend to do. We recently had a look at the potential of plastics made from Hemp; now, we are now turning our attention the Hemp paper.
History of Hemp Paper
The hemp plant has been used by humans for thousands of years for a multitude of purposes, from weapons and clothing to food and building. However, one of the most important uses for the hemp plant was paper.
The earliest example of Hemp paper was discovered in China, and dated from around 200-150 BC.The earliest surviving example of texts printed on hemp paper are Buddhist texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Surprisingly, the popularity of Hemp paper lasted until as late as the 1930’s.
Despite being in used for thousands of applications for thousands of years, the global prohibition of Cannabis in the 1920’s and 30’s had a devastating effect on Hemp industries. The decline in Hemp paper producers saw the rise of the wood-derived paper we are familiar with today.
The Impact of the Paper Industry
The paper industry as we know it today is sustained largely through the use of pulp from trees. It is estimated that tree paper production has increased by 400% in the last 40 years, and at the same time, deforestation has continued to increase around the world.
According to the National Geographic, an area of forest the size of Panama is cut down every year. A 2015 study in the journal ‘Nature’ claimed that since humans began clearing forests, 46% of the world’s trees have been felled.
This scale of deforestation is by no means solely down to the paper industry. However, it is an important consideration when comparing the environmental impact of Hemp and wood paper.
It is thought that, over a 20-year cycle, one acre of Hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees. This significant maximisation of resources could significantly decrease the areas of deforestation necessary to maintain supply.
For the production of paper, the wood has to undergo a series of processes. These processes can produce large quantities of nitrogen and sulphur oxides and carbon dioxide. All of these gases are known to have devastating effects on the environment.
Add to this the CO2 that would otherwise be absorbed by trees being cut down…
Water pollution is also a side effect of the current paper production processes. As well as waste products – like lignin – chemicals are also released into water sources. Alcohol and chlorates are often used in production processes, such as paper bleaching, and can pollute water.
In comparison, Hemp has a much lower lignin content and a higher cellulose content. This means that Hemp has to go through fewer processes to make paper, which can decrease the effects on both air and water,
According to the World Atlas, 26% of the waste found in dumping sites and landfills is paper and cardboard. Despite being the most currently recycled material in the world, the number of times paper from trees can be reused, is limited.
The maximum recycling capacity for wood pulp is three times. In comparison, materials from Hemp can be reused up to seven times, making more use of less plant material.
Other Benefits of Using Hemp for Paper
- Hemp’s high cellulose (the main ingredient in paper), means that less plant material is needed to produce the same quantity of paper.
- Trees can take 20-80 years to mature, whereas Hemp only takes four months.
- Hemp paper can be more durable than wood paper, with less yellowing and cracking with age.
- Hemp is easier to harvest than trees.
- The plant is thought to be more effective than any other commercial crop or forestry at converting CO2.
- The part of Hemp used to make paper is often a waste product of other uses (e.g. CBD and Hemp skincare).
The benefits of switching to Hemp paper production are evident. However, there are a number of obstacles currently preventing the switch. The continued prohibition of the plant throughout the world – many countries require farmers to have a special license, which comes with strict restrictions.
This being said, the USA recently passed the 2018 Farm Bill with the aim to legalise Hemp nation-wide. The production of the Cannabis plant is expected to rapidly increase, as more farmers choose to make a living in the industry. There has also been an increasing number of calls in the rest of the world to legalise Hemp to the masses.
Although Hemp paper is easier to produce than paper from wood, it requires different equipment. This would be a large outgoing cost to the industry. However, this cost would likely be offset by the cost savings that Hemp paper production would deliver.
We could write a whole series of articles on the environmental benefits of Hemp – and that is exactly what we intend to do. Now we're looking at Hemp paper.