1941 to Today – Hemp Paper is Printing a New Future of Sustainability

by | Dec 1, 2022

Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

Hemp paper may not seem like an industry-leading product, but it may be the key to hemp’s acceptance and revival in American Manufacturing.

Since the industrial revolution, life has radically transformed across the globe. The transformation has improved the quality of life for billions, yet it has produced mountains of waste threatening the planet. However, hemp has offered a more sustainable option since the beginning of this global transformation.

Long Before Cotton, Hemp Served the World

During the founding of America and long before, hemp was the primary textile used in rope and sails. People also commonly used the plant for clothing and hemp paper over 2000 years ago. Using this material is not a great discovery but a return to tradition. Now Hemp Innovations Foundations, a nonprofit, is funding a research project to compare the recyclability of tree-based paper compared to hemp paper.

From their press statement, “It is often repeated that Hemp Paper can be recycled up to 8 times, compared to just three times for paper made from wood pulp. But is that true? We are going to find out.”

Hemp Innovations Foundations will perform the investigation in collaboration with Western Michigan University. The pilot program will directly compare the number of cycles either sort of pulp can undergo. Hemp Press will be providing the hemp pulp. Although it’s uncertain if it will confirm hemp’s superiority as a paper, it’s exciting to see progress.

Certainly, America has improved its paper recycling rate over the last few decades, reaching 68% in 2021. On the other hand, using tree pulp requires sourcing material from trees, which often leads to deforestation. So, hemp may offer a longer lifespan as a recyclable paper and doesn’t require deforestation to harvest.

Additionally, hemp takes less than a year to harvest, compared to the 10 to 20 years it takes the average paper tree. One acre of hemp can outproduce at least 4 acres of trees. If hemp paper is also revealed to be more recyclable than wood, there’s no reason not to make the switch.

Beyond Hemp Paper, Serving the Planet Means Total Equilibrium

In the 1941 issue of Popular Mechanics, an alternative reality is described. The issue describes Ford’s “plastic” car alternative that was comparably lighter than the steel models. After describing the newly created decorticator that made it possible to process hemp, the article stated, “Hemp is the standard fiber of the world. It has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products, ranging from rope to fine laces, and the woody “hurds” remaining after the fiber has been removed contain more than 77 percent cellulose, which can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to Cellophane.”

Some may say that the hemp revolution is a modern mania, but the man who made the modern world wanted to create automobiles out of American-grown hemp. One might guess that the aggressive lobbying of the oil, plastic and paper companies such as Dupont that resulted in hemp becoming illegal is the only reason Ford made his cars from steel.

Further, the 1941 Popular Mechanics claimed, “the paper industry offers even greater possibilities. As an industry, it amounts to over $1 billion a year; of that, 80 percent is imported. But hemp will produce every grade of paper, and government figures estimate that 10,000 acres devoted to hemp will produce as much paper as 40,000 acres of average pulp land.”

So, hemp has been one of the best resources to rely on since the beginning of recorded history. It continued to be so from the dawn of the industrial revolution to the modern day. When paper spread throughout the world, much of it was hemp paper. If it’s been in use since before Jesus died, it’s likely to remain an option for the foreseeable future.

growing the hemp industry, hemp paper

In contrast, forests can die. The Amazon rainforest is regularly put at risk for farming purposes. Even Henry Ford contributed to that through his founding of Fordlandia. He wanted to start a rubber plantation there but failed to listen to locals and thus never had a successful crop. If he had been allowed to grow hemp at home, one can only wonder what would have happened to his American plantations.

Industrialism Doesn’t Have to Mean Environmentally Hostile

No one wants the world to suffer. Everyone wants to make money. When considering how things ended up the way they did, consider the role of legislation in shaping the world. Without hostile legislation against hemp, America would likely still be using it as one of the primary textile crops throughout the nation. Perhaps automobiles would run on ethanol, as Ford designed, rather than oil. It’s not the machines that are evil, but the lack of risk assessment is negligent. Further investing in hemp products, such as hemp paper, is a step towards the world the brightest minds were building in 1941 and centuries before.

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