Hemptastic – Paper


China the worlds first paper maker, used hemp to make paper 2,000 years go and until 1883 the majority of paper was made from hemp, producing books, bibles, maps, paper money, stocks, bonds, newspaper etc.

The 15th century Gutenburg Bible was printed on hemp paper.  The first and second draft of the US Declaration of Independence was written on dutch hemp paper, prior to it being copied to a parchment (animal skin) prior to it being signed.

Hemp rag paper (recycling hemp clothing and rags) was used to produce paper that nearly never wears out, making it the go to paper for archival documents

When hemp replaces some of the wood pulp, we can reduce the paper making chemicals needed by 60-80%.  The paper is stronger, acid free and can be recycled up to 10 times.

This must be a good thing for our rivers and the economics of running a pulp and paper mill.

Hemp stalk produces both long and short bast fibres and hurds with a high cellulose content,  which can be used to make paper and reinforce recycled paper production, the production process uses less water as hemp is highly absorbent

Hemp as a paper maker was discused in USDA Bulletin No. 404, October 1916, Hemp Hurds as Paper-Making Material, Lyster H Dewey and Jason L Merrill

BULLETIN 404 – Download PDF (2MB)

“Hemp produces an average of 1,000 pounds/acre of fibre and the hurds are about 5 times that of fibre so an average of 2.5 tones of hurd per acre is a fair average” and that was in 1916.

The woody inner portion of the hemp stalk, broken into pieces and separated from the fiber in the processes of breaking and scutching, is called hemp hurds. These hurds correspond to shives in flax, but are much coarser and are usually softer in texture.

The often quoted fact attributed to bulletin 404 is found on page 24 “Every tract of 10,000 acres which is devoted to hemp raising year by year is equivalent to a sustained pulp-producing capacity of 40,500 acres of average pulp-wood lands”

The quote – hemp can therefore produce 4 times as much pulp as trees.

Yes this will save trees, but there are other considerations, such as hemp is an annual crop, so needs to be stored in large quantities so it is ready to be called by the pulp mill.  It is quite bulky so transport costs may increase.  

Hemp can be part of a paper strategy in conjunction with using other agricultural sources of fibers including various trees and shrubs for the manufacture of various grades of paper.

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