National Hemp Month Spotlight: Hemp Paper and Plastics

By Jace Pohlman, Law Clerk

Jul 23, 2021

As part of National Hemp Month, we're highlighting beneficial ways to use hemp and hemp products in our daily lives. This post will focus on using hemp in paper and plastic materials.

Hemp Paper

Hemp paper has been a staple of humanity dating back to ancient times. In 150 BC, the Chinese created the world's first form of paper—entirely made from hemp. From there, the hemp plant's usage in paper-related products spread across the globe. 

Two types of hemp paper are primarily made. Fiber paper is made from the plant's long bast fibers, resulting in a thin and brittle product. Pulp paper is made from hemp stalk hurds. This type is softer and easier to produce, making it suitable for everyday purposes.

Benefits of utilizing hemp in paper production include:

  • Hemp is easier to process into paper than wood

  • Processing hemp into paper requires fewer (and less toxic) chemicals than processing wood paper

  • Hemp paper is more durable than wood paper.

  • Producing more hemp paper will slow deforestation. Trees take many years to grow until they are cut for paper production, whereas hemp can be re-planted yearly.

Overall, switching to producing more hemp paper than wood paper is a great way to introduce more sustainable goods used in daily life. Also, wood paper manufacturers will increase sustainability by turning to a new and more environmentally friendly pulp source.

Hemp Plastic

Hemp-based plastic is a newer development in human history, but one that comes with just as many benefits as paper. Hemp-based plastics can be used for many different goods, from cups and straws to appliances and other everyday products.

So, how exactly is hemp material used in plastic? The plant stalks are ground into pellets and mixed in with other plant-based materials to create a biodegradable base for plastics. Several different types of hemp plastics are currently used, ranging from typical plastics reinforced with hemp to 100% hemp-based plastics.

As it currently stands, the market for hemp plastics is not as large as the market for hemp paper. Companies with ample resources are currently undertaking research and development to find the best ways to mass-produce products like utensils, plates and cups, and other consumer goods. There is even a use for hemp plastics in products made by 3-D printers.

Using hemp in plastic comes with numerous benefits for both the environment and the people who use these products, including:

  • Hemp-based plastics have far fewer toxins than the products used to make standard plastics.
  • Hemp-based plastics weigh less, yet are structurally stronger, allowing for a broader range of uses and products.
  • The most significant impact is hemp's ability to be biodegradable.
  • If hemp-based plastics and composting become more mainstream, it will help alleviate the petroleum-based plastic-filled landfills throughout the world.

The true impact of hemp plastics may not be seen until there is more research on efficient ways to create these products, but a foundation is in place for a new (and hopefully, booming) world of hemp-based plastics.

Be sure to check back in to VS Insights for the next installment in our National Hemp Month series. Read our first Hemp Month post, focused on hemp building materials.


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