Let’s talk of sustainability- hemp papers!

There is quite a lot of history and amazing facts attached to Hemp Papers as it is considered to be world’s first paper. It’s made from Hemp stalks, which is very suitable to make papers. Currently only Natural handmade Hemp papers are being made from Hemp. To make Hemp papers we do not have to cut any trees, we need not use any hazardous chemicals and lots of water is saved in the process. Currently the technology to mass produce papers from Industrial Hemp is under development. Hemp cultivation is getting popular across the world. In India Industrial Hemp farming is getting very popular in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. For our generation hemp might seem like an alternative, but in reality it was the primary resource for paper production since it was invented in China back in 100 BC, using a mixture of hemp rags, mulberry bark and water.

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Hemp is already one of the most versatile crops known to man, with literally every part of the hemp plant that can be used to produce something, but finding the way to produce paper from the waste product would probably make hemp also the most profitable crop out there. Hemp paper along with the many other products derived from hemp made its way around the world over the following centuries, becoming one of the most important resources worldwide. Sadly this all changed in the 1930s when various industries lobbied together against hemp and turned it into an illegal crop. Since then, most industries invested in infrastructure designed to produce pulp and paper from trees, but in reality hemp is a much more ideal plant for the production of paper for several reasons.

Firstly, cellulose content makes up 70% of a hemp plant, rather than 30% in the case of trees. Since the production of paper requires only the use of cellulose, the rest must be removed by using toxic chemicals. It’s easy to see how having to remove only 30% of the total mass, rather than 70%, can be a big help in reducing the use of these toxic chemicals.

Lignin also needs to be removed from the pulp during the production of paper. Hemp pulp only contains between 5–24% of lignin, whilst pulp from trees contains 20–35% of it, meaning that less work and energy would be required in this part of the production process.

As we mentioned above, trees need at least 20–25 years to grow before they can be used for paper production. Hemp plants on the other hand only take a maximum of 4 months before the stalks can be used for paper production. This means that over a 20 year cycle, 1 acre of
hemp plants can produce the equivalent of 4–10 acres of trees! This would mean a huge reduction in land use by this industry, but most importantly a massive reduction in deforestation. I’m sure we don’t need to remind you that deforestation is one of the primary causes of climate change and species extinction. With this in mind, hemp paper can endure an average of 7 recycling processes, which is more than double when compared to the best paper originating from tree pulp. This would further reduce the land necessary to sustain the global demand for paper. To produce 1 ton of paper we need on average 17 trees, which take at least 20 to 25 years to grow before they can be used for paper production. This has pt an enormous strain on the forests of the world.

Each year we lose around 7.2% of IFL (Intact Forest Landscapes), with the highest cause being timber harvesting which represents about 37% of that. Timber harvesting of course is the beginning of the papermaking process. If we also consider the pollution generated by paper mills during production, meaning the energy required and the chemicals used, it becomes clear that something needs to be done to curb the impact that this industry is having on our ecosystems.

Recycling the paper that has already been produced is certainly an important step, but not all forms of paper can be recycled and even the best paper (for recycling purposes) produced from trees can only go through 3 recycling processes at most. The truth is that we need a new raw material to produce our paper; one that would put less of a strain on our planet and the limited resources that we already exploit far beyond a sustainable limit. Lastly, to make tree paper white, mills use bleach and chloride, both of which are terrible pollutants. To make hemp paper white instead, hydrogen peroxide is used, which is often also used to actually remove pollutants from waste water. This is a massive difference in the total pollution generated by the two production processes. Hemp is one of the best option for making environment-friendly paper and India has the most suitable environment to grow Industrial Hemp hence it gives us our most sustainable option for making paper. Hemp paper is made from hemp plants. It rules out the option of cutting millions of trees for making paper thus making the planet greener and sustainable. Anything made from hemp is organic and completely natural. Since every part of the hemp plant can be used, so there’s virtually no waste; thus making hemp paper organic and environment-friendly!

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