Currently in the United States, there are 27 states that have removed barriers to the production of industrial hemp. Not all of those states have actual licenses in place that would allow farmers to do that. In Pennsylvania, a bill to legalize industrial hemp (SB 50), sits in the house awaiting a final vote.
For those less familiar with the hemp plant, it has been labeled a miracle crop that can produce such products as paper, plastic, fuel, food, clothes and rope to name a few. Almost all of these products can be produced by hemp in a more sustainable and environmental friendly way than they are currently being produced. For this column, I will focus on paper.
Currently the world consumes around 300 million tons of paper each year and 30% of that is consumed in the US alone. A majority of this paper is created via paper mills that cut down trees, applying different chemicals to create a paper pulp.
We have cut down an estimated 4 billion trees around the world to supply the paper industry on every continent. As we continue, just remember that one tree, creates enough oxygen for three people to breathe.
Each year millions of pounds of highly toxic chemicals such as toluene, methanol, chlorine, dioxide, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde are released into the air and water from papermaking plants around the world, making the industry the 3rd largest industrial polluter of air, water and soil. After the paper is made, sold, and used it ends up in landfills where it decomposes, and releases methane gas, a gas that’s 25 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. The paper industry is also one of the world’s largest consumers of water. It takes 324 liters of water to make 1 kilogram of paper.
An extreme cost to the world for something as simple as a piece of paper. Hemp is a much better solution. While trees take an average of 25 to 30 years to be ready for paper products, hemp regenerates in months. Hemp paper can be recycled up to seven times, while regular paper is recyclable three times. Most importantly, hemp paper does not need to be bleached with chlorine, and is naturally acid-free. A much cleaner and more environmentally sustainable solution.
It is hard to ignore such wasteful processes, particularly when there is a much more sustainable and sensible method that yields the same results. As states begin to allow the production of industrial hemp back into the economy, it creates the opportunity for us to reverse the damage that we have done to this planet.
Imagine, walking into your office one day and seeing all of your documents printed on hemp paper. What do you think? Should we go back to using hemp paper?