What Are the Benefits of Hemp Paper?

People have grown and smoked hemp for thousands of years. This plant clearly has countless uses—hemp was once the predominant fabric for sailcloth, and hemp paper remains remarkably well-preserved even after centuries.

What, exactly, are the reasons we should use hemp for paper, though? Estimates from the 1990s indicate that using hemp to produce paper might be more than six times as expensive as using wood, so how does producing hemp paper make any economic sense?

The truth is that we’ve never truly given hemp a shot as a paper material. In this guide, learn the top uses of hemp paper, and discover all the reasons we should consider hemp to be the best paper material of the future.

What is hemp paper?

Hemp paper is paper made using the pulp of the hemp plant. The outer fiber bundles in the “skin” of the hemp plant are agitated or otherwise removed from the other stem material, and these fibers are then rendered into a pulp that can be made into paper. Hemp paper is highly durable and sustainable, and it can be used in dozens of different applications.

How is hemp turned into paper?

Hemp is a sustainable crop that can grow almost anywhere. It matures quickly, and it can be harvested with conventional agricultural equipment.

The process of removing fibers from hemp, called “retting,” is relatively straightforward and can be performed without chemicals. Next, the cellulose in these fibers (which contain very high levels of cellulose) can be made into pulp using a variety of different chemical agitants.

Lastly, the resulting hemp pulp is shaped and allowed to dry into sheets of paper. These sheets can be stacked into reams or packaged in a variety of other ways.

Is hemp paper legal?

Yes, hemp paper is 100% legal since it contains negligible concentrations of cannabinoids. Hemp paper certainly contains less than 0.3% THC, which is the main threshold the federal government is worried about when it comes to regulating hemp products.

Why is hemp paper not used?

There are a few different reasons hemp paper is not currently in wide use, and some of them may have some genuine economic validity. It’s a fact that hemp paper costs more to produce right now, for instance—though that’s partially due to the fact that paper mills generally don’t have up-to-date equipment for handling hemp fiber.

Also, it’s unfortunately true that only about 25% of the total hemp plant can be used for fiber production. Almost 100% of wood, on the other hand, can be used to make paper—though it gets complicated. It may be true that only a quarter of each hemp plant’s material can be used to make paper, but out of that quarter, more than 60% consists of cellulose. Wood, for contrast, usually only contains around 40% cellulose, and wood also contains considerably more lignin, an undesirable substance that must be removed during the paper production process.

What is hemp paper used for?

Right now, hemp paper is not commonly used, but this type of paper has a few limited applications, and hemp could be used in many more paper products of the future. Let’s review four of the most intriguing uses of hemp paper:

1. Can you make toilet paper out of hemp?

Various sources indicate that hemp may be a more sustainable and overall more desirable material to use for toilet paper and other hygiene products. Hemp paper is highly biodegradable, and it’s wasteful to derive something as single-use as toilet paper from something as non-regenerable as a tree.

2. Can hemp paper be used for books?

Back when hemp was more commonly used for sailcloth and other textile applications, it was normal to print books on hemp paper. Hemp was simply more available and easier to process than wood at the time, and there’s some indication that hemp may also be more durable as a paper material than wood pulp.

3. Can hemp paper be used for coffee filters?

Coffee lovers around the world are quickly learning that hemp pulp is an ideal material for coffee filters. Reusable hemp coffee filters have become all the rage, making this a potentially lucrative focus of the hemp industry of the future.

4. Can hemp paper be used for bank notes?

With private currencies like the Goldback on the rise, minters will be looking for durable, sustainable papers to use for their bills. Even the Federal Reserve could take a note from history by printing US Dollars on hemp, which scattered reports indicate may already have been done in 1914.

Is hemp better than paper?

In some ways, hemp does appear to have considerable advantages over conventional wood paper. As a resource, hemp is much more renewable than trees, and at the end of the day, you can get just about as much cellulose out of hemp as you can out of wood fiber.

Natural environments must be deforested to produce wood-pulp paper, but hemp can be grown in practically any agricultural environment. While monocropping hemp can harm soil just like any other plant, hemp is generally good for the environment, and it yields cellulose-rich pulp much more efficiently than wood.

Is hemp better than bamboo?

Like hemp, bamboo is another fast-growing crop that is often used for textile purposes. Bamboo isn’t as ideal for paper as hemp, however, due to its increased processing difficulty and decreased cellulose content. Overall, hemp is a better plant for paper production than bamboo.

Is hemp paper sustainable?

Hemp is generally considered to be a highly sustainable crop since it grows very efficiently and usually has a positive environmental impact. It’s possible to grow any plant unsustainably, however, so hemp paper is not inherently sustainable. Make sure the hemp paper you’re considering is certified organic to confirm its sustainability.

Does hemp grow faster than trees?

Yes, one of the major advantages of hemp as a paper material is its very rapid cultivation time. A hemp crop can reach full vegetative maturity in as little as 60-90 days while trees used for paper take 10-20 years to become mature. As a result, making paper using hemp is more economical than using trees, and it also has a reduced environmental impact.

Does hemp clean the air?

Yes, hemp is fast-growing and it has a lot of foliage, so this plant has endless opportunities to scrub the air near its cultivation environment throughout the entirety of its maturation cycle. Absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen, hemp makes the air more breathable for humans while removing carbon pollution from the air.

Does hemp absorb heavy metals?

Yes, hemp absorbs heavy metals like lead and cadmium from the soil. Hemp is so good at removing toxins from soil, in fact, that this plant was used to clean up the ground surrounding the site of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Grown incorrectly, hemp can be harmful to soil, but in most cases, this crop has a net-positive impact on soil ecology.

How long does it take for hemp paper to decompose?

Most types of paper, including hemp paper, fully decompose within around six months. It isn’t hemp’s impressive decomposition ability that makes it environmentally superior to other paper materials—in that respect, it’s about the same as wood pulp paper. Rather, it’s in the fact that hemp is so much easier and more environmentally friendly to produce.

Can you make rolling papers with hemp?

Yes, it’s possible to make rolling papers using hemp, and many experts consider hemp to be the ideal material for rolling up cannabis buds. One reason is obvious—you already smoke cannabis, so you might as well smoke the same plant in another form instead of turning to another member of the plant kingdom for your rolling paper needs.

Also, hemp paper appears to be significantly safer to smoke than rice and wood pulp rolling papers—partially because hemp papers are more likely to be artisan and organic. Plus, users tend to prefer the feel and taste of hemp papers to rolling papers made with other materials.

Are hemp rolling papers better for you?

There’s some indication that hemp papers might be better for your respiratory tract than other types of rolling papers, but there’s no hard research supporting this position. The official position, in fact, is that all types of smoking are bad for you regardless of the substance in question—a recent idea refuted by thousands of years of human history.

Do hemp papers get you higher?

Since hemp rolling papers do not contain cannabinoids, terpenes, or any of the other substances present in cannabis flower that can make you feel high, smoking hemp papers should not trigger the “entourage effect” or enhance your THC high in any way. Switching to hemp papers from rolling papers made with another material, however, may result in a tastier and smoother smoking experience. Just make sure the papers you’re smoking are organic and don’t contain any flavorings or additives.

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