Industrial Hemp Provides Effective Alternatives for Paper Plastics and Textiles

Industrial Hemp Provides Effective Alternatives for Paper Plastics and Textiles

    For centuries, Industrial Hemp has provided materials necessary to create various types of paper, plastic replacements, and textiles. The infinite amount of uses for Industrial Hemp creates friction with conglomerate corporations. These corporations become leaders in endless markets such as Fuel, Textiles/Cotton, and construction material supply. Hemp materials offer a less expensive, environmentally safe, recyclable alternative to products such as Cotton, Plastic, and Timber Paper. The criminalization of the Cannabis Plant not only stripped citizens of their right to medicate using Cannabis. It also stripped farmers and agricultural laborers of a huge cash crop while simultaneously depriving the environment of yet another solution to much of the pollution pandemic. We aim to shine a light on just a handful of the endless uses of Industrial Hemp.

Hemp Paper Replaces Timber-based Paper Products

Industrial Hemp is a valuable alternative to many of the materials currently produced to create papers, plastics and textiles. In fact, Hemp is more suitable for paper as it has a higher cellulose and lower lignin content. Hemp paper is also much more eco-friendly and sustainable than tree paper. In fact, hemp matures much quicker than trees. Hemp stalks grow in 4 months, whereas trees take 20-80 years. Consequently, one acre of Hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees over a 20 year cycle. Paper produced from Hemp is more durable than trees. This paper does not yellow, crack, or deteriorate like tree paper. 

Hemp paper can be made from hemp plants’ long bast fiber or from the short bast fiber, known as hurd or pulp. Fiber paper is thin, tough, brittle, and rough. Pulp paper is easier to make, softer, thicker, and preferable for most everyday purposes. Similar to that of wood, the chemical composition of hemp hurds makes this material a good choice as a raw material for manufacturing paper. The quality of hemp paper is actually higher than wood. Hemp was widely used across the world in the 1800s, but declined in the early 1900s as hemp production and trading started to be prohibited by various government entities. A return of the wider use of hemp paper can help sustainability efforts to reduce deforestation.

Environmental Impacts of Timber-based Paper

According to National Geographic, we are cutting down forests the size of Panama each and every year. Already in North America, we have lost 97% of the mature forest that existed when the European settlers came in the 17th century. The world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation.

Arguably, the biggest impact of deforestation is the loss of habitat for millions of species. 70-80% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests. More species are going extinct every year due to loss of habitat and over exposure to poachers and hunters. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the original rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. At this rate, they are predicting that 30-50% of all species could possibly be facing extinction by mid-century.

As our forests disappear, climate change will only accelerate. Forests are vital to conserving the soil and maintaining our air by removing carbon dioxide and returning oxygen. The forests also keep the soil moist and help maintain the natural water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees and the canopy they create, our lands are quickly turning into deserts incapable of supporting the once natural habitats. Trees also help to absorb the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—increasing the speed of global warming. A return of the wider use of hemp paper could help sustainability efforts to reduce deforestation.

Hemp By-Products Replacing Plastics

Plastic goods and by-products have become a topic of many environmental concerns in recent years. We use plastic products in almost every daily activity including driving, building, and even eating. These materials prove incredibly  dangerous to the environment, often derived from nonrenewable sources. Yet, these materials remain circulated heavily.

In contrast, some of the earliest plastics contained cellulose fibers obtained from organic, non-petroleum-based sources. “Hemp cellulose can be extracted and used to make cellophane, rayon, celluloid and a range of related plastics,” reported Seshata, a writer at Sensi Seeds in 2014.  “Hemp is known to contain around 65-70% cellulose, and is considered a good source (wood contains around 40%, flax 65-75%, and cotton up to 90%) that has particular promise due to its relative sustainability and low environmental impact.” The famous car manufacturer Henry Ford swore by the plant: “Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” 

While 100% hemp-based plastic is still a rarity, some “composite bioplastics” made from a combination of hemp and other plant sources are already in use. Thanks to their high strength and rigidity, engineers find these plastics ideal for the construction of cars, boats, and even musical instruments. 

Environmental Impacts of Plastic

Our Oceans and waterways remain at constant risk of collecting more and more micro-plastics that marine life often mistakenly eat and pollute the waters. The infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is largely composed of millions of these tiny particles — as much as 1.9 million per square mile — according to a 2014 report from National Geographic. Researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found 38 million pieces of plastic waste on Henderson Island, an uninhabited coral island in the South Pacific.

Organizations such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition focus on raising awareness of the severity of plastic pollution.  Given the current conditions, the PPC expects the oceans to contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050. Statistics show that Americans alone discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. The population only recycles 8 percent of this waste. The rest ends up in landfills or becomes ‘litter’. In fact, there are tens of thousands of landfills across the globe. Buried beneath each one of them, plastic leaches toxic chemicals into groundwater and flows downstream into lakes and rivers. The plastics are not the only harmful aspect of these materials. Manufacturers’ additives in plastics, like flame retardants, BPAs and PVCs, can leach their own toxins. These oily poisons repel water and stick to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris.

These materials are harmful to our bodies and have unending effects on human health. Chemicals leached by these plastics are in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Researchers link various types of cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments to these chemicals. These materials not only deteriorate our environment, they are deteriorate the overall wellness of all species inhabiting this planet.

Hemp Fabrics Offer Alternative Textiles

Environmentalists are optimistic about Hemp crops replacing several materials that can be difficult to produce, resource depleting or detrimental to the surrounding land and soil. A 2005 report by the Stockholm Environment Institute compared the water, land, and energy requirements of cotton, polyester, and hemp textiles. This report produced several interesting findings

Primarily, organic cotton required less energy than organic hemp. Though this margin remains fairly small. Polyester, a petroleum-based synthetic fabric, required far more energy due to the extraction process necessary for the oil required to produce it. While cotton required the least amount of energy, this crop needs approximately twice as much territory as hemp per ton of finished textile. 

Further complicating matters is the inverse relationship between chemical use and land requirements. While organic farmers can save on energy by cutting synthetic pesticides and herbicides, their yield per acre drops. Polyester, a synthetic fabric made from petroleum, does almost as well as hemp on land use. Apparently, you can get more fabric from an oil field than a cotton field. Additionally, the cotton plant needs about 50 percent more water per season than hemp, which can grow with little irrigation. When you add processing into the equation, cotton uses more than four times as much water as hemp.

On an annual basis, one acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two to three acres of cotton. Hemp fiber is stronger and softer than cotton, lasts twice as long as cotton, and will not mildew

Environmental Impacts of Textiles

    The report produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute exhibited a fair amount of environmental issues surrounding Cotton and Polyester production. Cotton depletes natural resources prompting fears surrounding sustainability of certain resources necessary for day to day life. For instance, it takes 10,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of cotton, meaning it takes about 2,700 liters to make 1 cotton t-shirt. When you buy clothing you therefore “use” water from wherever the cotton was produced. 

Once the 4th largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea of Central Asia is now virtually gone – mainly because of cotton cultivation. It has been called one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters by the UN. From this dry basin, 43 million tons of pesticide-laden dust is blown into the air every year. The Aral Sea region suffers from the highest rates of throat cancer in the world – representing 80 percent of the cases of cancer

In the U.S., cotton ranks in    third place in    terms of pesticide use after only corn and soybeans. Almost 48 million pounds of pesticides were used on cotton in 2017. Global cotton production releases 220 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, creating detrimental environmental factors surrounding this crop.

Hemp is the Future of Paper, Plastic and Textiles!

    The environmental effects of Hemp crop growth compared with that of Cotton create a clear answer to stresses involved in textile production. Hemp also provides an extremely efficient alternative to timber-based paper products and an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic products that litter our waterways and oceans. We believe Hemp is the answer to a collective sense of well-being within our bodies and our environment.