Hemp and paper have almost always gone together. In fact, the first paper in the world had a little hemp in it. Its presence carried on through history. Even the first and second drafts of the Declaration of Independence ended up on Dutch hemp paper.
As an alternative to making it from trees, hemp has a lot of positives. Not only is it produced faster than tree paper, it’s also more eco-friendly and sustainable.
Where hemp paper comes from
Hemp paper comes from either the hurd or pulp of the hemp plant. You’ll know which is which based on their feel. Hurd paper is thin, tough, and rough. The pulp variation is a little weaker, but feels softer and thicker. The pulp hemp option is often more popular.
How to make hemp paper
Using hemp follows the same process as making it from trees. The first step is separating the hemp materials you need from the ones you don’t. This gets done by pulping the hemp and then soaking and pounding it in clean water to create a slurry.
From there, excess water gets pulled out of the slurry before sending the material through a paper machine. During this part of the process, the slurry gets spread on a moving screen so water can drain.
After that, the wet paper gets pressed dry, with the final outcome being a roll of paper.
Why it outperforms trees
When it boils down to it, hemp can hold its own against trees.
- One acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees over 20 years.
- Hemp stalks are ready for their paper transformation after just a few months, but it takes trees anywhere from 20-80 years to grow.
- Paper made from hemp doesn’t require bleaching, reducing the risk of contaminating water with dioxin or chlorine waste.
- Hemp doesn’t yellow, crack or deteriorate like what comes from trees. It’s more durable.
The composition of hemp and trees also varies enough to make hemp the more preferable option. Hemp has higher cellulose content than trees. Cellulose is the principal ingredient in paper, and hemp can have up to 85 percent cellulose content. Hemp also has a lower lignin content, which is good since it must get removed in order to process the material into paper. When compared, hemp can contain up to 15 percent less lignin than trees.
Will it ever take over?
This is a complicated question. Although it has a lot going for it, supply right now couldn’t keep up with the demand in the country. However, this is all subject to change, and there’s no way to predict what role it will play in our future. It is good to know that hemp is such a versatile and eco-friendly plant that it may contribute to saving our forests from the mill.
If you’re considering using your hemp crop to make paper, it’s a good idea to find an experienced processor to work with. At Arbor Vita8, we’ve seen it all when it comes to hemp, and we’re ready to pass our knowledge onto you. From the type of seeds you plant to selling to the right manufacturer, and everything in between, our superior facility and high-end equipment has you covered. Contact us today to learn more.