People should use hemp paper as an environmentally sustainable alternative

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People should use hemp paper as an environmentally sustainable alternative

Sumayah Baloch

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The earth is running out of natural resources faster than ever. Climate change is getting  worse and one of the main causes of this is deforestation. According to the Rainforest Action Network,  around 3.5 billion to 7 billion trees are cut down each year and four billion trees are used in the paper industry today. Forest loss means more species are in danger of extinction and more carbon dioxide is released into the air. Switching to hemp paper is one way to help slow down deforestation.

Trees take up to 80 years to grow and hemp takes only four months. One acre of hemp produces as much paper as four acres of trees. Trees could be substituted with hemp when making paper, but that is not the only reason why.

 “When it comes to lignin …  it is essential to remove this ingredient from the plant pulp before it can be processed into paper. It can only be extracted from the plant with toxic chemicals. Hemp contains 5-24% of lignin while wood contains 20-35% making the hemp plant more eco-friendly as it is made with fewer toxic chemicals,” said Lara Moses, a former editor and copy editor for print and online publications and freelance writer.

Producing hemp paper does not require toxic chemicals . Hemp paper is whitened with hydrogen peroxide whereas wood paper is bleached with chlorine. Chlorine is especially harmful to the aquatic life and gives the creatures chemical burns. 

“…Concentrated levels of chlorine kill fish and other aquatic life-forms. Chlorine is an oxidizer, which removes the necessary slime coat from koi and other pond fish, causing stress and stress-related illnesses. Chlorine damages the gill structure in koi and other pond fish, causing serious long-term issues and making it difficult for the fish to breath. As the pond’s pH levels go down, chlorine becomes more toxic. The presence of phenols, a toxic organic chemical found in some types of organic wastes, can combine with chlorine to become extremely toxic,” said Rick Bartel, Writer for The Pond Place of Michigan.

Not only is hemp paper more eco friendly it has also been used by our ancestors. The earliest form of paper was partially made from hemp. Hemp paper lasts hundreds of years longer than paper made from wood pulp and does not yellow with age. It can be recycled seven to eight times, whereas wood pulp paper can only be recycled three times.

Some may argue that making paper from hemp is too expensive and would require an unnecessary amount of work. They are right, making paper from hemp would take some work and would be costly, but it is a possible solution and will help slow down climate change. It would create new jobs for people and and the need for lumber will still be apparent, so people who have managed timberlands in the past will not go out of business. 

Hemp paper is an eco-friendly product and more businesses are trying to save the environment by changing from plastic to paper straws and using recyclable cups and containers. Hemp paper is a great way for them to help out and it has better quality than regular paper. We can all help save the environment with one step at a time.

“Now, this is not to say the continued use of trees in the paper industry is bad – in fact many companies are using sustainable techniques which have an almost neutral carbon footprint. It is however unfortunate that this was not always so. Should the combined efforts of large corporations hadn’t dissuaded industrial scale hemp paper manufacturing, we may have lived in a greener, cleaner world than we are in today,” said L.Martin, writer for Woodlandpaper.com.

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