Benefits of Hemp Paper vs. Tree Paper – A Look At Hemp For The Future
As a society, we have been heavily reliant on paper made from trees for a great number of years. Since the turn of the 20th century, tree paper has been readily used to create newspapers, books, pamphlets, posters, advertisements, magazines… the list goes on.
Unfortunately, one only needs to take a brief look at the massive deforestation projects that are going on across the world to recognize how dangerous the tree paper industry can be for the global environment. It would be beneficial, it seems, to have an alternative solution that we could implement in the place of hemp paper.
Fortunately, there is a viable alternative – and there has been for quite some time. That alternative is hemp paper.
In fact, hemp paper was used regularly before tree paper was popular. Hemp paper is more renewable, is easier to produce, and is generally more sustainable to both the environment and the economy. In this article, we’re going to talk about how hemp paper can be considered a viable alternative to tree paper.
Advantages of Hemp Compared to Trees
Before we even get into the benefits of hemp paper, it’s important to note that the simple act of growing hemp has a number of advantages compared to growing trees. Here are some benefits that we could expect if we were to replace some of the paper trees with hemp farms.
Hemp Grows 4 Times Faster
Planting trees to be used for paper requires a great investment of time. For any reasonable harvest to occur, trees need to be grown for about 20 years before they can be converted into paper.
Hemp, on the other hand, grows quite a bit quicker. The equivalent of 20 years’ worth of tree paper could be produced from just 5 years’ worth of hemp. While hemp plants are generally much smaller than trees, it only takes about 4 months for a hemp plant to come to maturity – compared to the 20-80 years that trees require.
Hemp Absorbs More Carbon
One of the most common topics in political and environmental discussions these days is the global carbon footprint. The world’s industries are producing far more carbon than we can absorb, which is contributing to issues like global warming.
Many people criticize deforestation as one of the primary causes of carbon excess. They propose that the best way to offset the carbon footprint is to grow more trees. While this is certainly an effective measure, oftentimes these discussions neglect to mention another possibility: hemp.
Hemp is capable of absorbing significantly more carbon than trees are. In fact, hemp has been scientifically proven to absorb more carbon dioxide than any other type of forest or agricultural products.
Hemp Doesn’t Require Pesticides or Herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides are chemicals that are used to prevent the growth and spread of pests on agricultural products. Unfortunately, these chemical products are often bad news for the soil that these plants grow in and for the customers that purchase these products. Pesticides and herbicides can damage soil and future crops, and can lead to health problems for consumers.
Fortunately, hemp produces natural pesticides that help to repel critters and pests. This means that large agricultural hemp crops can be grown without needing to rely on harsh chemical pesticides or herbicides.
Hemp Paper is Higher Quality than Tree Paper
Hemp paper is known to be quite resilient. Hemp fibers are quite strong, and they resist the browning or yellowing that is often seen with tree paper.
Hemp Paper is More Durable
Not only is hemp paper resilient to aesthetic damage, it is actually more durable. Hemp is one of the toughest natural fibers that can be grown, and one of the reasons that it is ideal for making paper is because it can last for a long time.
Furthermore, hemp paper can be recycled to a greater degree than tree paper. Tree paper can usually be recycled about 3 times, whereas hemp paper can be recycled up to 8. On top of this, hemp’s incredible durability means that it would need to be recycled far less frequently than tree paper in the first place.
Hemp Is More Productive Per Acre
Studies done in the 1910’s in the United States by the USDA confirmed that 1 acre of Hemp would produce 4 times more paper than an acre of trees. Couple that with how rapidly hemp grows and you are onto a viable solution that can lead us into the future, whatever barriers need to be broken down in the meantime.
Hemp was widely used as paper before being subject to prohibition in order to satisfy corporate greed coupled with many other interests. One can only imagine that hemp would be used in a great deal more applications if it weren’t for this prohibition.
Cons of Hemp Paper
- At this point, hemp paper might sound like some type of godsend. While there are a huge number of benefits of hemp paper, it’s also important to be aware of the drawbacks of using this type of product.
- Hemp is a very strong and sturdy plant. This means that any farmers who are hoping to take on hemp as an agricultural product will likely need to secure equipment that is quite a bit stronger than what they already own, lest they risk damaging their equipment. We look forward to seeing the improvements in the technology in the coming years.
- If a hemp crop is tested and proven to have more than 0.3% THC present (the highest amount of THC a plant can have while still being considered hemp), then the whole crop will be destroyed by the government, if detected.
- Hemp is highly regulated, and a great deal of paperwork is required for farmers who want to start growing hemp.
- If someone is trying to grow hemp in an area where someone else is growing hemp for the production of CBD, enmity could arise. CBD hemp growers want their plants to remain unpollinated, whereas people growing hemp for materials will be wanting to grow both male and female plants. The risk of pollinating their neighbor’s plants could lead to disputes between growers.
Pros and Cons of Tree Paper
While tree paper is often demonized, it’s true that there are some benefits that can result from the process of deforestation and using tree paper. If there weren’t any tangible benefits, people simply wouldn’t do it.
Here are some of the most common pros and cons of using tree paper.
- Deforestation provides more room for houses to be built, allowing for the furthering of commercialization and development
- Deforestation provides a great number of jobs
- Deforestation provides land in which commercially farmed animals can graze
- Paper production creates a surplus of CO2 in the atmosphere by reducing the number of trees capable of absorbing it
- Paper production and deforestation encourages more droughts and can accelerate the spread of deserts
- Tree paper is focused solely on short-term gain and rarely considers the longevity of the environment
- Deforestation can contribute to the death of wildlife and the extinction of species
- Cutting down trees and forests increases the likelihood of flooding
Products Made from Hemp Paper
It’s not just paper that can be made from hemp. A huge number of products can be made from hemp fiber, including:
- Hempcrete, a versatile building material similar to concrete that is much more affordable, breathable, and workable.
- Sunscreen. Hemp can actually be used to make a viable form of sunscreen.
- Milk. Hemp milk is a fantastic alternative to cow’s milk that helps to protect the environment.
- Clothes. Hemp provides a renewable source of fiber that can make comfortable and stylish clothing.
- Shoes. Hemp can be used to make durable and comfortable shoes.
- Rope. Hemp is known for being capable of producing very strong and durable rope.
- Blankets. Hemp can be used as an insulating material and can be used to make blankets.
- Toilet Paper: Hemp Toilet paper is seen as having a huge future for sustainability reasons.
- Hemp Paper Towels: All of our disposable paper can be made sustainably using hemp.
These are just a few of the many things that hemp can be used to make.
History of Hemp and Hemp Paper
Hemp has a rich and interesting history – far richer than we can cover in this article. However, there are some interesting facts regarding the history of hemp that are significant enough to include here.
Hemp Use in Ancient China
When we say that hemp has been used agriculturally and industrially for a long time, we mean a long time. Some of the earliest recorded use of hemp dates back to ancient China, where the crop was grown as a material to be used in building, as well as for producing commercial materials.
Hemp as one of the most popular agricultural plants in ancient China because the fiber has so many diverse uses. It was also one of the first plants that the Chinese were known to cultivate. The Chinese are largely responsible for domesticating the hemp plant, turning it from a wild and hard-to-cultivate plant into the form of hemp that we know today.
Hemp in the Early USA
Hemp has been used for a few hundred years in early America, as well. Hemp was the most popular and widely used agricultural plant up until the first half of the 20th century.
You may have heard that the Declaration of Independence was first drafted on hemp paper. This it’s a great testament to the popularity of hemp throughout the years of the Americas.
Hemp was, however, most certainly used for making paper. It was also widely used for making rope, blankets, and other commercial and agricultural products.
As marijuana became an increasing problem in the United States and federal efforts came underway to restrict the growth and sale of cannabis, hemp was also prohibited.
Hemp is technically a strain of the cannabis genus, and since government officials made no distinction between the different types of cannabis, all forms of the plant – including hemp – were made illegal in the 1920s.
The Farm Bill
Just because hemp was made illegal did not mean that America’s interest in the plant waned. Hemp was still widely respected as a valuable agricultural and commercial plant, and many people oppose the ban on growing industrial hemp.
In 2018, the Farm Bill was introduced which allowed for the production of agricultural hemp. As long as the plants produced contain less than 0.3% THC, they can be grown and used for commercial and agricultural purposes.
Hemp Paper FAQ
How is hemp paper made?
The process by which hemp paper is made is pretty much the same process that is used to create tree paper.
The hemp fibers are reduced to tiny fibers by boiling, beating, or shredding them. These fibers are then boiled into a pulp, similar to the pulp which is made to create tree paper. The pulp is then separated into sheet-shaped sections, pressed, and allowed to dry into paper.
Is hemp paper more expensive?
The production and growth of hemp is generally much, much cheaper than the growth of trees. However, hemp paper that is currently made for consumers may presently be more expensive than tree paper.
This is because hemp paper currently appeals only to a smaller audience – those who are concerned about the environment. Companies and businesses tend to charge higher amounts for environmentally-friendly products even if they are cheaper to produce because they know that environmentalists are willing to go the extra mile.
As the hemp industry undoubtedly grows, hemp paper will benefit from economies of scale and improved technology.
Does hemp paper biodegrade?
Yes, hemp paper biodegrades just as well as tree-based paper and potentially better because it is likely to be less bleached.
Are hemp rolling papers better than tree papers?
Generally, yes. The same principles apply to the production of hemp rolling papers compared to tree papers, meaning that they are more sustainable, they are better for the environment, and they are more affordable. And yes, hemp rolling papers roll joints just as well as any tree paper – and the smoke tends to be a lot less harsh.
How long does hemp paper last?
Hemp paper generally lasts a bit longer than tree paper. It takes a bit more time before hemp paper starts to show signs of aging – such as browning or yellowing – when compared to tree paper.
Tree paper has been the go-to form of paper for more than a century now, but that doesn’t mean that it will be the default for the future. There are a number of reasons that tree paper can be considered unhealthy for the global environment: it contributes to deforestation, raising overall CO2 levels, and isn’t very sustainable.
Hemp paper and agricultural hemp production, on the other hand, provide a number of benefits that tree paper production does not. Hemp paper can help to accelerate CO2 absorption and can be considered a much more sustainable and renewable resource than tree paper.
Aidan Lehane is an entrepreneur who has a lifelong passion for CBD, Hemp and allowing people to find an effective natural remedy to many of their pains and illnesses.
Aidan has been a constant advocate for cbd and hemp legalization for over 2 decades and is often found researching & creating blogs and videos about CBD, on the Great Hemp Youtube channel while testing and reviewing countless products for quality and effectiveness.