Hemp Paper

Read Jerry’s column about hemp packaging: Pack It Up or as the article says, it’s all about packaging not hemp toilet paper.

Hemp paper. Paper can be made from hemp. The stems are used to make hemp paper after the bast is separated from the hurd. The bast is the outer portion of the stems much like bark on a tree. The hurd is the inner woody portion that’s used to make hempcrete among other things.

One advantage of making paper from hemp is that it’s renewal crop. It grows in months compared to years for trees. Ideally the hemp is grown sustainably using no-till regenerative cultivation techniques. Stems from hemp grown for other purposes can be directed to paper making. This provides more income for farmers while reducing waste.

The best hemp paper is made from fiber cultivars. Some use the stems from hemp grown for CBD extraction instead. Either way there are several steps necessary to make paper from hemp. Separating the bast from the hurd can be done by retting the stems in the field and/or decordicating the stems mechanically.

There are four compounds in raw hemp stems that need to be addressed when making paper: pectin, lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. The relatively large amount of pectin is one difference between processing hemp vs wood. Conventional techniques employ toxic chemicals. There are alternaive methods that can be used to make paper from hemp.

Several things need to be considered when thinking about how to make hemp paper in bulk. The only way to make money with hemp fiber is at scale. The only way to make money with fiber is to grow and process large amounts of it. The only way to make hemp paper profitably is when the processing facility is in close proximity to the farm. If a hemp farm is more than 50 or 100 miles from the processing faciliy the cost and logisitics eat up any profit. Lastly the best quality fiber comes from plants that haven’t flowered yet. This is important because traditional fiber cultivars are monocious meaning plants have both male and female flowers on the same plant. Hemp grown for fiber needs to be far away from hemp grown for flower production (CBD extraction).

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