Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, public awareness around the benefits and utility of cannabis sativa’s various components and extracts has significantly improved. Hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant, is now rightly established as a highly sustainable resource viable for the manufacture of environmentally friendly textiles, biofuels, and even nanotechnology materials.
Unlike conventional toilet paper and paper towels, hemp toilet paper is made entirely of hemp fibers rather than processed wood pulp. In this piece, we’ll go over a few good reasons to consider switching to hemp toilet paper, even though it doesn’t share the ubiquitous availability of its conventional counterparts just yet.
A Safer & Less Energy-Intensive Manufacturing Process
Wood fibers are very rigid, which is great when producing industrial materials. However, this makes the use of toxic chemicals necessary in order to break wood fibers down into pulp that’s soft enough for use in products such as facial tissues and toilet paper.
Hemp toilet paper is entirely composed of fibers that have been extracted from the hemp plant. Hemp fibers are finer than wood fibers, making the manufacturing process much simpler and significantly less dependent on harsh chemicals. Basically, it takes less work to get hemp fibers into a state usable in products that regularly make contact with sensitive skin tissue.
Hemp’s Complementary Natural Properties
Along with being naturally softer due to how fine hemp fibers are, hemp also comes with numerous naturally occuring qualities that don’t diminish during the manufacturing process. For instance, hemp fibers are longer than wood fibers, making hemp-derived products lighter but stronger. The common issue of toilet paper tearing is far less likely with hemp toilet paper than conventional toilet paper because its fiber length adds structural integrity.
In addition to being naturally softer and stronger, hemp fibers also have antibacterial properties, according to a 2014 NC State University study. Needless to say, this property comes as a welcome bonus in a product like toilet paper. The resulting pulp from processing hemp fibers is also much brighter than wood pulp, diminishing the need for bleach or at least lessening the amount used in the manufacturing process. The fewer chemicals that come in contact with our skin, the better.
Sustainability in Rapid Growth
Worldwide toilet paper use wipes out 27,000 trees a day, according to the National Geographic Society. On the other hand, hemp is considerably more cellulose fiber-dense than wood pulp. In fact, one acre of hemp is able to produce approximately as much cellulose fiber as four acres of trees grown for timber. This means that hemp farms would require less additional land to be converted in order to keep up with the growing demand for paper products.
The final consideration is the sheer difference in growth rate. Some industrially grown trees have as long as a 20-year growth cycle that they must undergo to maximize the amount of cellulose fiber produced. Conversely, hemp matures to a point where its fibers can be harvested in only 100 days. Within the 20 years it takes an acre of trees to grow, an acre of hemp can be harvested over 700 times.
Mass Adoption & Legislative Red Tape
With all of these obvious pros, one might wonder why hemp toilet paper hasn’t completely replaced its conventional counterpart already. A 2019 article in Forbes noted that “industrial hemp production is now legal at the national level under the 2018 Farm Bill, and more jurisdictions are getting involved.” However, it’s not yet fully legal for farmers to grow hemp in all states.
Fortunately, the benefits of cannabis legalization — such as significantly lower crime rates, higher tax revenue and increased tourism — is causing an increasing number of states to reassess legislation around the cannabis plant. In that sense, it’s likely mass adoption of practical hemp alternatives to everyday items is just around the corner.