Those of us in the hemp industry are always talking about the plant’s versatility. It’s so much more than the sum of its extracts. Hemp can make paper, clothing, and building materials. It can show up as an ingredient in animal feed, fish feed, and even birdseed. Hemp isn’t just for humans to ingest (or smoke,) so why aren’t we seeing it everywhere we go yet? Why doesn’t it have more accessibility?
Hemp has been legal since 2018. Isn’t that plenty of time for us to have started using it in these amazing ways? What’s the hold up?
Why we should make paper from hemp
It’s all about a renewable resource that grows fast when it comes to hemp and paper. It can take a tree 12-40 years to mature to the point of harvesting it. It takes hemp about four months.
With the speed at which hemp is ready to become paper, there’s no reason to argue trees are a better source. We should leave trees alone to do the more important work of making habitats for animals, providing us with shade, and even pulling harmful carbon dioxide out of the air for good.
Other reasons hemp makes a better paper source than trees are:
- It takes up much less land to grow
- It doesn’t wear out soil
- It contains much higher levels of cellulose, the main component of paper (55% more on average)
- It uses fewer chemicals to convert hemp to paper
- It can get recycled twice as many times
Paper is just one example where arguing in favor of hemp makes sense, but this type of rationale can extend to other industries as well for many of the same reasons.
The roadblocks hemp faces
Even with all its good attributes, one roadblock keeping hemp out of these industries — its stigma. Hemp carried the same stigma as marijuana for so long, that it just wasn’t used for anything. Now that it’s legal everywhere again, major infrastructure requirements are necessary to give hemp the ability to play catch-up in the industries where it can do the most good.
Hemp can’t compete with traditional tree pulp companies, for example, when it comes to accessibility. From job opportunities, to equipment, and interested buyers. Without these links in the chain in place, growing enough hemp to infiltrate the paper market isn’t cost effective, and success isn’t guaranteed.
Things are quickly forming into a Catch-22 situation. Hemp could make great paper, but farmers can’t grow for paper until they know it’s in demand. Manufacturers don’t want to use hemp in lieu of paper until they know the supply is there.
Another roadblock, related specifically to the infrastructure in the paper market is with the equipment. To convert hemp into paper, processing plants would have to retrofit machinery to accommodate the higher cellulose content and different fiber length of the plant. Hemp and trees aren’t the same in either area. This is another costly adaptation that’s keeping hemp from being a key player in the industry.
It’s easy to see how these roadblocks could translate to other industries. Most likely the same issues in paper are happening in textiles. When it comes to hempcrete, which can get used in construction, there’s another Catch-22 to deal with. Builders don’t want to use the material until they’re sure it’s reliable, but you can prove reliability unless it’s used.
Only time will overcome the issues
Trying to take share from an established commodity is never easy, even with all the right arguments in hand. Hemp is struggling to make a name in all the industries where it has practical applications, but with enough time, anything can happen.
Being so new, hemp needs time to gather proof, and infrastructure, that puts it up as a competitive player in these industries, increasing accessibility. As the market grows in one area, the industry as a whole can expand and really take advantage of the plant’s amazing versatility.
Stay on top of what’s cutting-edge in hemp
Whether you’re a farmer or manufacturer, knowing what’s new with hemp is essential to expanding accessibility, and that key information is always changing. To stay on top of trends, including what products are in-demand, it’s always best to partner with a reliable and knowledgeable processor. Being involved in both ends of the supply chain means processors, like Arbor Vita8, really have their finger on the pulse. To learn more about how we can help you succeed, contact us today.