PAPErS & CARDBOARDS
Hemp can produce excellent quality paper. Above all, it grows very fast and does not require the many chemical treatments required for wood by-products. Yet, it is the latter that still provides 93% of the paper in the world, at the cost of shaved forests in some countries and significant pollution. …
THE ADVANTAGES OF HEMP VS WOOD
- Hemp grows fast: 4 months vs 20 years. Hemp is rapidly renewable, and the quantities produced can be adjusted in real time according to demand.
- Its yield for papermaking is also 4 times higher. Over 20 years, one hectare of hemp produces as much as 4.1 hectares of trees.
- The hemp stalk contains 77% cellulose vs 50% for wood. Cellulose is the material used to make paper and cardboard.
- Hemp contains 2 to 3 times less lignin than wood. Lignin is what makes paper yellow and brittle. The chemical treatments used in the paper industry aim in large part to eliminate that.
- Thus, hemp does not require bleaching with chlorine, which is extremely polluting. The operation can be performed with oxygen peroxide, a non-polluting treatment.
WHY DID HEMP PAPER ALMOST DISAPPEARED ?
Until the end of the 19th century, 75 to 90% of the world’s paper was made from hemp fiber. In the 1930s, the machinery for harvesting and processing hemp in an industrial way finally became available in the United States. It promised the plant a bright future. Some saw it coming as a competition to paper derived from wood, oil and synthetic fibers then in full development.
Thus, industrial hemp was simply lumped together with its cousin plant, marijuana, and banned in 1937 by powerful lobbies. This American law imposed on the whole world has put a major brake on the plant use and the development of new products. However, during the Second World War, the US government suddenly made an intense propaganda to encourage its culture, which he believed essential to the war effort.
Today, the cultivation of industrial hemp is still prohibited in most American States, but it has gradually regained its status in many countries, including Canada, where it has been authorized since 1998. However, it remains a (re) emerging crop for which production, and especially processing techniques, still need to be fine-tuned or developed to adapt to current markets.