Hemphasis.net Home > Hemp Paper > Can hemp replace trees as a major source for paper?

Hemphasis Home | Hemphasis Site Directory | email Hemphasis


This article appeared 
in the  Hemphasis 
magazine Fall 
2004 issue.

"Using a Hollander Beater [like the one pictured above], hemp paper was made that was stronger, with similar mass, absorbency, and thickness as commercial paper."  -- Craig, Patrick, and Miller, Terry. “The Perfect Stationery: A Study of the Properties of Different Paper Materials.” (1998)

Can hemp replace trees as a major source for paper?

by Jeremy Briggs

Worldwide consumption of wood products has risen 64% since 1961. Globally, pulp for paper, has risen from 40% in 1998, to an expected 60% over the next 50 years.  The industry expects that demand to double by 2050. A company’s use of email causes an average 40% increase in paper consumption. The U.S. consumes 200,000,000 tons of wood products annually, increasing by 4% every year. U.S. paper producers consume 1 billion trees each year (735 pounds of paper for every American). U.S. at 5% of world population consumes 30% of world’s paper. Only 5% of virgin forests remain in the U.S.   

The U.S. paper-producing companies are the 3rd largest energy consumer.  One ton of Living Tree Paper Company’s Vanguard Recycled Plus requires 43.69% less energy to produce than virgin wood paper, a savings of 4,920 Kilowatt Hours of Electricity, reducing Greenhouse Gases by 2087 pounds. 

The pulp and paper industry is the 3rd largest industrial polluter – 220 million pounds of toxic pollution into air and water each year. Deforestation has released an estimated 120 billion tons of CO2 into the air.  3 million tons of chlorine, a major source of carcinogen dioxin, is dumped into our waterways each year from paper companies.  Every woman alive today carries some trace of dioxin in her breast milk.  Dioxin is considered one of the most toxic substances ever produced = cancer, liver failure, miscarriage, birth defects, and genetic damage.

Kenaf can produce 10 tons of dry fiber in 4-5 month growing time, which is approximately double the hemp yield, but it requires 90 days of frost-free weather to germinate, It grows slowly when temperatures are below 50 degrees.  Kenaf produced 2.5/tons/acre in Minn., and 15/ton/acre in Texas.

Worldwide consumption of wood products has risen 64% since 1961. Globally, pulp for paper, has risen from 40% in 1998, to an expected 60% over the next 50 years.  The industry expects that demand to double by 2050. A company’s use of email causes an average 40% increase in paper consumption. The U.S. consumes 200,000,000 tons of wood products annually, increasing by 4% every year. U.S. paper producers consume 1 billion trees each year (735 pounds of paper for every American). U.S. at 5% of world population consumes 30% of world’s paper. Only 5% of virgin forests remain in the U.S.   

The U.S. paper-producing companies are the 3rd largest energy consumer.  1 ton of Living Tree Paper Company’s Vanguard Recycled Plus requires 43.69% less energy to produce than virgin wood paper, a savings of 4,920 Kilowatt Hours of Electricity, reducing Greenhouse Gases by 2087 pounds. 

The pulp and paper industry is the 3rd largest industrial polluter – 220 million pounds of toxic pollution into air and water each year.

Deforestation has released an estimated 120 billion tons of CO2 into the air.  3 million tons of chlorine, a major source of carcinogen dioxin, is dumped into our waterways each year from paper companies.  Every woman alive today carries some trace of dioxin in her breast milk.  Dioxin is considered one of the most toxic substances ever produced = cancer, liver failure, miscarriage, birth defects, and genetic damage.

Deforestation is a problem. All primary forests in Europe, and most in North America have been destroyed. Keeping trees alive and standing is necessary to our oxygen supply and well-being. Trees provide the infrastructure that keeps microbes, insects, plants, fungi, etc., alive. The older and bigger the tree, the better for the environment it is.

The annual global consumption of paper will rise (from 300 million tons in 1997) to over 400 million tons by 2010, according to the  Pulp and Paper Industry. This will exacerbate the problems of deforestation unless another pulp source is realized.

Hemp paper doesn’t require toxic bleaching chemicals. It can be whitened with hydrogen peroxide, which doesn’t poison waterways as chloride and bleach--the chemicals used in making wood pulp paper--do.

Paper made from hemp lasts hundreds of years longer than wood-pulp paper, which decomposes and yellows with age. Hemp paper resists decomposition and does not yellow with age.

The Library of Congress found that, “While the hemp paper in volumes 300-400 years old is still strong, 97% of the books, printed between 1900 and 1937 on tree paper, will be useable for less than 50 years.” Hemp paper can be recycled 7 to 8 times, compared with only 3 times for wood pulp paper.

The USDA reported in 1916 that an acre of hemp produced as much paper as four acres of trees annually , yet 70% of American forest have been destroyed since 1916.

In Ukraine, poplar wood grown for pulp produces 5.1 tons/acre/yr, and dry stems of hemp produce 3.24-4.05 tons/acre/yr. This is 4-5 times more than indigenous forests in Ukraine, and approaches the increment of the most productive plantations of fast growing poplars. The Ukrainian Institute of Bast Crops expects hemp to yield an average of 5 ton/acre of dry stems. The cost of transporting hemp pulp, dispersed over larger territories than wood, removal of the ash content, and the lower pulp yield compared to wood pulp make non-wood pulp more expensive. However, the Ukrainian Institute compared the labor costs of growing and harvesting hemp and poplars in 1992 and found the costs were comparable.

To supply all the raw material necessary to provide paper, the U.S. would need to cultivate 17-21 million acres (appr. 1% of available farmland) of hemp--producing the 54 million metric tons of raw material necessary to replace wood-pulp paper each year.

According to a paper industry article by E.P.M de Meijer, “There is sufficient variation within the genus Cannabis for further genetic improvement of quality and yield of hemp fiber as a non-wood source of pulp.” 

Interest has been shown in using hemp hurds as a papermaking source, leaving the fiber to be sold for fabric and textiles. Such multiple use makes the farmer more money, and makes growing hemp more efficient. The Ukrainian Inst estimates yields of hemp hurds at 1.5-4.8 tons/acre (2.5-6 tons/acre of hemp stalk at 60 – 80% hurd).

Making assumptions about hemp yield per acre at 3.9 tons/acre/year, one can estimate the number of acres of hemp required to meet the current Wisconsin demand (3178 tons/pulp/day), we find that 533,000 acres of hemp would meet the current Wisconsin demand for pulp for paper.

Wisconsin has 1 million acres available for growing hemp in a crop rotation plan. If one assumes that the processing costs are the same as that for wood--$195/ton, that the yield to fiber is 70%, and that the required profit margin is $100/ton processed--the paper companies could pay $500/ton for the bast fibers.

If one uses a value of $100/ton for hurds (based on price of wood chips) and $500/ton for bast fibers, the estimated market price of retted hemp stalks is $200/ton. Combining the market price and the yield per acre (3.9 tons/acre) one obtains a crop value of $780/acre. Since the production, storage, and transportation cost will be similar to corn, $300/acre, a farmer could make a profit of $480/acre growing hemp. If the farmer were only to market the fiber, the profit drops to $200. (This is, according to an anonymous author, a chemical engineer whose name and affiliation are protected since he has been censured for writing it by pressure from the Justice Department, in “Market Analysis for Hemp fiber as a Feed Stock for Papermaking,” 1997, reported in Dr. Dave West’s Archives at gametec.com/hemp/mktanalysis.html] ).

23 paper mills around the world use hemp fiber, producing 120,000 tons/year. Most popular American cigarette brands use a 50%-hemp cigarette paper and filter.

There are several other non-wood paper sources. Ed Rosenthal’s book, Hemp Today (1994), ranked potential paper species in order of importance: sugarcane, bamboo, straws, kenaf, mesta, hemp, abaca, sisal, henequen, jute, ramie, flax and sunhemp. Hemp is ranked first for plants that will grow well all over America temperate climates.

The foregoing research leads us (and most other sane folks) to conclude that hemp fiber and hurds should be used to make paper in the U.S. to reduce deforestation, reduce toxins in our waterways, and aid family farms.

Sources

Conrad, Chris; Hemp – Lifeline to the Future, Creative Xpressions Publications, Los Angeles. (1994)

de Groot, Birgitte; van Roekel, Gerrit J, Jr; and van Dam, Jan E. G.; Alkaline Pulping of Fiber Hemp, publ. in Advances in Hemp Research, Paolo Ranalli, editor, Haworth Press (1999)

de Meijer, E.P.M ; Hemp as a Pulp Source, publ. in Hemp Today, Ed Rosenthal, editor (1994)

Dewey, Lyster H. & Merrill, Jason L.; Hemp Hurds as Paper-Making Material, USDA Bulletin 404. US Govt Printing Office (1916)

Krotov, V.S.; Hemp or Wood: Potential Substitutes, Journal of the Industrial Hemp Association, Vol. 1, No. 1. (June 1994)

Living Tree Paper 541-342-2974 - info@livingtreepaper.com

Monette & Leson; Keeping the Trees in the Forest: Industrial Hemp as a Paper
Alternative, Vote Hemp Report (2002-2003)

Motavalli, Jim. “The Paper Chase.” E Magazine. May/June 2004.

P.J. LeMahieu, E.S. Oplinger, and D.H. Putnam. “Kenaf.” Alternative Field Crops Manual. Univ. of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension.  1991.

Roulac, John W.; Hemp Horizons – The comeback of the World’s Most Promising Plant, Chelsea Green Publishing Company. White River Junction, VT (1997)

Schafer, E.R. and F.A. Simmonds; A Comparison of the Physical and Chemical Characteristics of Hemp Stalks and Seed Flax Straw, Publication No. R868, USDA Forest Products Laboratory. Madison, WI (1926)

US Dept of Natural Resources Information Office; Information on Trees used in Paper Production for the year 1990 & USDA Information Services (1991)

van Roekel, Gertjan, Jr.; Hemp Pulp and Paper Production, Journal of the International Hemp Association, Vol. 1. No. 1. (June 1994)

van Roekel, Gertjan, Jr.; Hemp Pulp and Paper Production, publ. in Hemp Today, Ed Rosenthal, editor; Quick Trading Company. San Francisco, CA. (1994)

Walker, David W., Ph.D.; Can Hemp Save Our Planet?, publ. in Hemp Today, Ed Rosenthal, editor, Quick Trading Company. San Francisco, CA (1994)

Wilse, C.P; C.A. Black; and A.R. Aandahl; Hemp Production Experiments: Cultural Practices and Soil Requirements, Publication P63, Agricultural Experiment Station, Agricultural Extension Service, Ames, IA (June 1944)

Hemphasis Home | Hemphasis Site Directory | email Hemphasis