Paper Without the Trees – How Hemp Paper Could Be the Future of Printing
The tentacles of the cannabis industry continue to spread to different sectors and the publishing sector might be its next stop. Hemp is being characterized as the future of printing and many people are still not sure why. With the possibility of a tree-free paper evident in hemp along with suitable properties for making paper, it’s no surprise that there is much hype around hemp presently. Read on as we take you through why hemp paper might just be the next big thing in the publishing sector.
It is no news that the large bulk of the paper is sourced from trees and while this has been the craft for years, the world is currently looking for more environment-friendly means. This led to the search for tree-free letterpress paper. A search that led to the discovery of commercially viable hemp papers. This discovery came as a result of a joint project conceived by Maren Krings, an environmental activist, and photographer. Maren Krings was initially researching for a book she was writing on industrial hemp before her research brought her in contact with Hahnemuhle, a German paper manufacturer. They both embarked on the project of exploring the potential for hemp to be a source of quality paper.
The joint project was a success and yielded quality results. These results were carefully outlined in Maren’s book H is for Hemp. In the book, she explained the development of hemp paper which is now on offer to all as well as other adventures during her travels around the world. The book details the history of industrial hemp, how it was used in different parts of the world in recent times, and its modern uses.
Hahnemühle has recently launched its new line of hemp paper which is available for different types of paper printing such as offset and high-speed inkjet printing. This option is a viable and commercially better alternative to paper sourced from trees that are commonly used in the book publishing industry. Other manufacturers in the publishing industry in Germany are also following these steps. Gmund is the latest company to offer industrial-grade hemp paper products their production is still a long way from mirroring that of Hahnemühle.
The development across different sectors in the world has promoted the growth of technology and has seen digitalization on the rise. While this is commendable, it has still not removed the importance of paper as a commodity widely in demand. It is easy to believe that the importance of the paper is presently limited only to the book publishing sector, but this is far from the truth. Paper is widely used across different industries and even among tech gurus which makes it ever-relevant. Hemp as a source for paper contains fiber that is four to five times stronger than wood. The implication of this is that hemp paper is tougher and more durable when compared with paper made from trees.
You might be wondering why the entire paper industry isn’t already making the complete switch to hemp since it’s stronger. Well, that thought is justified but there are still some factors holding back the expected progress. Most of the machines used in these paper industries are crafted to convert the pulp to paper which means there will be a need for conversions to be made if they are to work on hemp fiber. This means that undertaking the change to cater to hemp-based paper will prove to be very expensive.
Another benefit of hemp paper is that it gives rise to more paper compared to wood-based products. A field of hemp when processed will give at least four to five times more paper compared to a forest of equal size. Hemp has been researched to be able to produce more biomass in comparison with other domestic crops. Hemp has a natural characteristic of resisting the growth of weeds on its own. This means there is less need for the use of herbicides and also helps to reduce production costs. The female hemp plant is used majorly for consumption and extracting cannabinoids. Alternatively, the male hemp plant is used for making paper.
There is a recent buzz around hemp in different sectors as many people are looking into the wide array of quality products that can be derived from it. Beyond paper, the plant is also being looked into for clothing, fuel, insulation, and bioplastics. This comes at the right time as laws across Europe are currently being homogenized to suit the hemp industry and allow for proper maximization. Hemp is also a more viable option for many as its cultivation is more environment-friendly and has less polluting potential. This is a good advantage for the product over other traditional materials.
The crop also requires less water compared to other crops for growth. It has the unique characteristic of being able to clean up both soil and air pollution. It grows faster than most crops as it is of the same caliber as bamboo which is one of the fastest-growing crops in the world. This makes hemp a special discovery in a period where the world is currently searching for other sources for conventional products.
The benefits of hemp have not gone unnoticed by different farmers across Europe. Data from the European Commission has shown that the cultivation of hemp has increased tremendously over the period of the last nine years. The growth has seen 19,970 hectares in 2015 rising to 34,650 in 2019 with more to be expected.
Hemp is the future across many sectors due to its wide range of possible products. Hemp paper is one of such products that are soon to be the center focus of the publishing industry in Europe. There is still a couple of things to be put in place before this becomes a reality but one thing is for sure and this is that hemp paper is here to stay.