27 Oct Hemp Used to Make Paper
Nearly all of the paper produced today comes from trees, which take 20 to 50 years of growing before they’re ready to be harvested. But, paper can also be made from hemp plants, which are ready to be harvested just four months after planting. In four months, hemp plants will grow to 10 to 20 feet tall. Plus, unlike trees, which need to be spaced apart to allow for their root growth, hemp plants can be grown more densely and therefore they don’t take up as much space.
Paper has been made from hemp in the past. The United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were originally drafted on hemp before they were copied onto parchment. The initial production of Mark Twain’s novels was also printed on paper produced from hemp. Just before the 1900’s, however, production began to transition into primarily wood-based paper.
Hemp seems to offer a more efficient way to produce paper. Trees consist of 30 percent cellulose, which is what’s made to produce paper. The other 70 percent of what makes up the tree has to be removed through a process that requires toxic chemicals. Hemp, however, is made up of 85 percent cellulose. Plus, its chains of cellulose molecules are arranged in a more rigid structure, which means it’ll produce a tougher, longer-lasting paper.
Hemp can be used to make all types of paper, from tissue paper to toilet paper to note paper to cardboard. Because hemp is naturally acid free, the paper it produces isn’t yellow or too brittle so it’ll last longer without cracking. Paper made with hemp is able to be whitened using hydrogen peroxide, which is not as toxic as chlorine, which is used to bleach paper made from wood. In addition, paper made from hemp can be recycled up to seven times, while paper produced with wood can only be recycled up to three times. Lastly, trees require significantly greater water than hemp plants and could require pesticides or fertilizers.
As of now, there doesn’t seem to be any efforts or serious interest to moving toward hemp paper production. However, based on the various benefits that hemp plants potentially offer, hopefully the paper industry will consider making the change.