There are many hemp derivatives that make it a remarkable plant. The fiber from the stalk of the plant can make different types of raw materials processed into a wide range of products. Hemp’s fiber is tougher in comparison to other fibers making it a better raw material for different industrial applications. Besides, hemp is an eco-friendly plant and a good alternative to fossil fuel products like plastics. The plant is also an alternative to forest-based raw materials like wood.
You can use hemp fiber to make clothing, paints, building materials and hemp paper which is our subject of discussion in this article.
What Is Hemp Paper?
Hemp papers are varieties of paper made from hemp pulp as the main raw material. This is in contrast to other papers made from wood pulp. There are different types of hemp paper some specialty like banknotes, and cigarette papers.
History of Hemp Paper
The cultivation of hemp dates back to 8000 BC. The plant was one of the earliest cultivated crops for making ropes and textile fiber. It was cultivated in many parts of the world including China, Russia, France, and other parts of Europe. In fact, the first human industry was inspired by hemp fiber for making clothing.
The world’s first paper was made from hemp sheets. Hemp paper replaced the use of cumbersome tablets and stones which were the writing materials back then. From there, hemp became popular for printing books, and record keeping. Until 1883, all papers in the world were from hemp fiber.
As such, hemp paper has a lot of historical significance with evidence from ancient artifacts and records. The American Declaration of Independence, as well as the Gutenberg Bible, was printed using hemp paper. Mark Twain novels, the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and Magna Carta of the UK were all printed on hemp paper. There is evidence of old hemp Buddhist texts dating back to 2nd and 3rd AD.
The first paper was coarse and is believed to have been produced in 150 BC in China from hemp paper. The production of the paper was before the official invention of papermaking techniques by Cai Lun. There is a renewed interest in modern times in the use of hemp paper as a sustainable alternative to wood paper.
What Curtailed the Growth of the Hemp Industry in the Past?
In the 1930s, hemp’s association with marijuana demonized the crop which was affected by the Marihuana Tax Act. This made it difficult to grow or manufacture hemp. Then, in the 1970s hemp suffered another blow with the classification of the plant under the controlled substances act. The good news is that on December 20, 2018, the passing of the 2018 United States Farm Bill led to legalization of hemp cultivation. The law removed hemp from Schedule I controlled substances which made hemp an ordinary crop.
Hemp Paper vs Wood Paper
Conventional paper is manufactured from wood harvested from forests. The use of wood paper puts pressure to cut down trees to get raw materials for producing paper. To be more eco-friendly we need to reshape the paper and pulp industry by finding alternatives to wood paper. Recycled paper is one good alternative. Making paper from pulps from annual plants like flax and hemp rather than forest plants is another perfect alternative.
The paper conversion process from wood paper is also not sustainable. It utilizes chemicals, energy and large amounts of water.
The industrial hemp plant has long fiber that creates high-quality paper, especially when combined with recycled office paper. Hemp paper is strong and can make paper that can last for centuries.
Trees have only 30% cellulose. Cellulose is the main raw material for paper making. The rest of the raw materials are usually removed using toxic chemicals to retain cellulose. A lot of bleaches and chemicals are employed when making paper from wood. This results in yellowing of the paper and as such poor quality.
The raw material for making paper should have large amounts of cellulose. The more cellulose it has the better because it minimizes the use of chemicals during paper processing. Hemp paper has about 85% cellulose making it a better fiber to use than wood. The processing of hemp paper does not require bleaching making hemp a more eco-friendly raw material to use in paper production.
The main downside of hemp is that it takes longer to remove lignin from the hemp fiber.
Why should hemp be used in the place of wood paper? Hemp is easy to grow. The plant requires few pesticides and little water in comparison to other fiber plants. The plant also takes a short period to mature, about three months. The making of hemp paper can utilize both short bast fiber and long bast fiber.
Although the digital world has cut down the use of paper tremendously, the paper industry remains a big business globally. And the demand for paper will continue to rise with the population increase in the future. At the moment, about 93% of paper manufacturing is from wood. Unfortunately, to meet the demand for paper, logging takes place. The use of hemp paper can reduce the demand for wood paper. Hemp and flax are annual plants that produce non-wood fiber and pulp.
Forests are very important in the fight against global warming. If hemp can replace wood, the move will go a long way in reducing climate change. Why are hemp paper products better than wood derivatives?
1. Hemp Paper is Stronger than Wood Paper
The paper is strong and of a higher quality than wood paper. Hemp processing does not require bleaches. Therefore, the paper does not turn yellowish.
2. The Plant has more Cellulose than wood pulp
Paper is made from cellulose. The industrial hemp plant requires fewer chemicals to process because it has a high percentage of cellulose (about 80%). This is in contrast to trees that have a cellulose percentage of only 30%.
3. Hemp is an Annual Crop
In comparison to trees that take several decades to reach full maturity ranging from 20 to 80 years, hemp plant takes only three months to reach full maturity.
Utilizing hemp fiber to make papers stops or reduces deforestation. Secondly, by reducing deforestation, soil erosion is also minimized. Soil erosion occurs when forest trees are cut down which result n the exposure of the topsoil because the land is left bare without a cover.
4. Hemp Uses Few Pesticides and Water to Grow
Hemp is an environmental-friendly plant that is easy to grow. It utilizes few pesticides and little water and matures in a short period making it eco-friendly.
5. Hemp Paper Recycling
While wood paper can only be recycled three times, hemp paper can be recycled multiple times.
The Future of Hemp Paper
The digital world has made it possible for the information to go viral via various social media platforms. Since global warming affects everyone on our planet, more consumers and manufacturers are becoming aware of global warming issues and climate change. We believe that in the future governments will give incentives to farmers to grow hemp. Future consumers will demand to use hemp products like hemp paper instead of fossil-based fuel products and wood-products. Also, in the future, most companies will source for hemp paper specifically. Packaging, business cards, and other paper products will come from hemp paper.