The history of word documents is three decades old. But the history of paper is three millennia old. Three millennia = three thousand years. That’s a considerable period.
We won’t be surprised if it makes another millennia or two— provided we survive to see them.
That said, one thing which has changed throughout civilization is the way we manufacture these papers. The first paper was partly made from hemp— and we called it hemp paper. Currently, our primary paper produce comes from wood pulp.
If hemp paper is sustainable, woody pulp papers are reliable. We’re naturalists, and we believe in the organic processes.
We don’t like to part our opinions when both the industries are doing commendable jobs. While hemp papers are eco-friendly, sustainable, reusable, recyclable; woody pulp papers are reliable.
Replacing our massive demand for paper with hemp paper in a snap of a finger is unrealistic. We rather like to keep realistic goals. Every industry has a phase. As of now, the woody pulp papers have captured the market efficiently. The mass production accomplishes the needs on time and at a budget-friendly cost.
It’s unrealistic to think that hemp papers will capture the market like a wildfire as soon as it’s made mandatory or compelled in the industry. No! The industry doesn’t work with non-naturalist forces.
Hemp papers will best enjoy the sustainability status when people accept it organically and denounce the use of woody pulp at will. Mandatory laws, in the name of climate change, may backfire and cripple the economy.
We still haven’t perfected the hemp paper technology for mass-producing the kind of papers we buy.
Furthermore, we haven’t perfected the technology for mass-producing hemp papers. We’re used to buying bulk-produced papers like printer papers, toilet rolls, newspapers, etc.
But what we don’t have perfect doesn’t stop us from refining them. Many companies have set examples. They are steadily switching from woody pulp paper-production to hemp paper production, trying to set industrial norms that could fit well with resolving the climate change.
But the quality of hemp paper is better than woody pulp. Perplexed why we don’t know it?
Hemp paper is made from the fiber of hemp plants. Bast fiber grows outside the stalk of the plant and gives the strength it needs. It can either be long or short. Papers made up of bast fiber are thin, brittle, and sturdy.
On the other hand, pulp papers are not tough and durable like bast papers. But they have their advantages. They are beaten easily into softer papers that we prefer in our everyday use.
That said, the quality of hemp paper is better than woody pulp papers. Moreover, their compositions are quite similar. Despite having the better quality in line with almost identical composition, why don’t we see hemp papers more often? To understand that, we’ll have to time-travel to history.
Hemp papers are the future. Sure! Were Hemp papers the past? Definitely!
While you may think hemp papers have suddenly emerged out of thin air to improve our present and future, let us remind: Hemp papers were the woody pulp papers of the 18 and mid-1900s. They have always existed lest the authorities never wanted us to acknowledge it.
Here’s a brief hemp paper history that you need to know.
- The world’s first paper was partly based on hemp. China is the oldest civilization of having it used. The Han dynasty made hemp papers in 150 to 200 BC, replacing the stone and clay carving for sending and receiving messages.
- The popularity of hemp paper spreads to Europe, then the middle east, to the rest of the world. Hemp papers were shipped, covering delicate items to the other parts of the world. The world borrowed the technique and implemented it for the coming 1500 years on cigarette papers, novels, filter papers, and banknotes. The bible, the books of Agatha Christie and Mark Twain, were printed on hemp papers. The Russian paper mill printed their notes on Hemp papers.
- America had its share of hemp use. North America saw the upsurge of hemp papers in the 1600s. The farmers were legally allowed to grow hemp plants. The declaration of American independence was written on the hemp papers. The words of the revolution were spread through hemp pamphlets in war-time.
- Hemp started losing its glory in the 1900s. Synthetic textiles and newspaper lobbies created monopolies with the authorities to suppress the production of hemp papers. By the mid-1930s, laws were brought upon to criminalize hemp cultivation and use. It’s quite ironic once the pulp-paper industry forced-shut hemp papers. Now, close to hundred years moving ahead, climate-change lobbyists are trying their best to rule out pulp-papers, thereby completing the circle.
You can’t ignore the benefits of hemp papers. You can only wait for it to get into the system effectively!
Fortunately, the U.S. Farm Bill 2018 legalizes hemp production. But we don’t have enough raw hemp support to meet the demand of the market. That said, we can only wait for it to get into the system effectively.
Hemp papers have multitudinous benefits in comparison to the pulp papers. Still, so far now— the cost and the inadequate supplies have stopped it from going berserk on all the top-shelves of the dispensaries. Hemp vs trees. Here’s why you should adopt hemp:
- We need 4 acres of trees to produce the same amount of papers that 1 acre of hemp yields.
- America cuts about a billion trees every year. If hemp takes over, we can get the job done in less than 25% of the total trees.
- Hemp grows in 4 months. Cultivating it thrice a year on the same plank of land will eradicate the need of having wood pulps. By the way, trees take 20 to 80 years to grow. Good luck waiting an entire life, if you’ve cut it in your backyard.
- The tree contains relatively low cellulose levels whereas hemp has higher cellulose concentration. Why is it important? Well, it’s the chief component of paper, cotton, rayon, ropes, etc.
- Cellulose molecules are chained in sequence to give papers and ropes. Since trees have 30% cellulose, we need to cut more of them to meet our cellulose level. Hemp can have as much as 85% of cellulose, thereby preventing reckless deforestation.
- Industries use toxic chemicals to separate 30% cellulose from the other 70% components: less cellulose, more chemicals, higher environmental degradation. Hemp consumes less toxic chemicals, making itself a brilliant fit for an environmentally-friendly alternative.
- Tree pulp has 20 to 40% lignin. Lignin is removed from the pulp to proceed with the paper processing further. Tree bark uses toxic ingredients and anti-environmental methods to get rid-off lignin. On the other hand, hemp fiber has only 4-7% lignin, and hemp shives contain 17-19% lignin. The low-lignin level quickens paper production and protects environmental degradation.
- Hemp paper is any day more strong, durable, and sturdier than pulp paper. They don’t crack or pale down like tree papers.
- Last but not the least— 1 acre of hemp is known to produce as good an oxygen content as 25 acres of trees. When did we last time have something that gave us the product we wanted without affecting the environment?
Making hemp papers is not rocket science. It’s quite the same as traditional paper-making. The only difference is— hemp paper cuts above as an eco-friendly product.
You’d be surprised to know that hemp gets us the paper what traditional tree pulps give— without really having us to have a radical change in our manufacturing processes. Check it out how we make hemp papers.
Step #1: We begin with harvesting high cellulose hemp plants. Prefer hemp fibers over hemp shives. Hemp fibers have cellulose levels close to 70-80%, hemicellulose upto 15-20%, and lignin upto 4-7%. Hemp shives contain cellulose just above 45%, hemicellulose close to 15-20%, and lignin upto 19-21%
Step #2: Debark hemp fibers. Cut them into small hemp chunks.
Step #3: Mix the hemp chunks in water. Add the chemicals that help break down the hemp pieces. The process will give a slurry mixture.
Step #4: Apply a little chemical processing for softness. Generally, we send tree slurry in pressurizing digesters to have virgin pulps. But we don’t need such a set-up for hemp because it’s not a hardwood and requires very little chemical processing for attaining softness.
Step #5: Rot the cellular tissue with retting. Keep doing it until you have hemp pulp in the container.
Step #6: Hemp pulp is not the purest form of pulp we want. It has unwanted adhesive lignin. Rinse it with water and get it removed from the pulp. Since hemp doesn’t have high lignin content— we don’t need anti-environmental chemical processes to have pure hemp pulp. Methods like oxygen delignification and autohydrolysis are way more pro-environment moves.
Step #7: Once we have lignin out from the pulp, we heat the residue. The residue is then flattened and beaten into thin hemp papers. Depending on your use— you can have them moulded into hemp paper or hemp toilet rolls.
What if we replaced pulp papers with hemp papers overnight? Let’s see its implications.
- Hemp papers will not be restricted to printing papers. They will swipe the most crucial paper markets such as rolling papers, art papers, banknotes, stationary, archive papers, beverages bags, religious books, packaging, novels, paper blends, filter paper, hygiene products, and many more.
- The US will become the largest consumer of hemp paper. Currently, the states consume 33% of the worlds’ paper. Replacing it with hemp papers will make America the largest consuming market.
- The United States will consume 60% of the worlds’ paper by 2050. Switching it with hemp papers overnight will have America reach the target much quicker.
- We will have hemp reused seven times in comparison to the wood pulp that’s recyclable only thrice.
- If all the variables of one acre of hemp and trees are kept the same, hemp will produce more oxygen than trees.
- The average person uses 100 rolls of toilet paper that need half the tree cut. By his lifetime, he will have used over 50-70 trees only for toilet rolls. With the higher cellulose content of hemp, we’ll have enough toilet paper rolls to reach the moon.
The key takeaways of hemp paper
- Don’t be astonished. Hemp paper is not something unique. It has always existed— hidden under the official propaganda.
- Hemp paper industry needs a minor retooling in the existing wood pulp companies. Maybe 40% of changes, and you’re good to go.
- Hemp papers are unlikely to happen soon. The decades of prohibition demands hemp to have a margin of decades to get back on track.
- Hemp papers are more natural to make. We’ll also cover DIY hemp papers in the future.
- If hemp paper is sustainable, wood pulp paper is reliable. We need to master mass-production to have hemp replace the existence of traditional papers.
- Hemp papers don’t have THC— the psychoactive element. While you may feel tempted to roll these papers to have euphoric sessions, these papers are devoid of the recreational component.
- Be a naturalist. Support the natural, organic introduction of hemp in the market rather than forcing out woody papers with the brute. Yes, pulp papers degrade the environment, but you have an entrepreneurial opportunity to beat the traditional market by establishing a hemp set-up.
- The recyclability and reusability of hemp papers bestow chances to have a waste-processing plant.