Making paper with hemp contributes to the growth of a sustainable supply chain for this rapidly renewable fiber source. Every sheet of Mohawk Renewal Hemp is made with 30% hemp fiber.
In the phraseology of the tech industry, it's all about scalability. That's why PureHemp Technology, a small research company in Fort Lupton, Colorado, has focused on devising low-carbon, green technologies that can be replicated across the globe, such as its patented process to turn hemp stalks into pulp for making a wide variety of papers. Thanks to a collaboration with Mohawk, the company's unique process will soon anchor a plan to turn the byproducts of hemp into a whole line of sustainable papers. Hemp fibers were long used across American industry to manufacture fabric, rope, and paper until they were outlawed in the 1930s. Now, with PureHemp's process being used to manufacture hemp-derived products like pulp, papers like Mohawk Renewal join the CBD and legal marijuana industries, driving demand for this rapidly renewable agricultural crop.
“We’ve got more hemp stalks than we can possibly handle,” says Ed Lehrburger, who, along with his brother Carl and Dick Wingerson, has been working to develop and commercialize this process for decades. “We’re in the process of developing a small refinery now. Our collaborative work with Mohawk means we can start building out the infrastructure to make this much bigger in the future.”
Called continuous countercurrent reactor technology, or CCR, PureHemp’s process can turn agricultural byproducts with a high cellulose content, such as hemp stalks or wheat straw, into pulp for papermaking. Hemp offers a sustainable starting point. Unlike trees, which typically take between 7 and 35 years to mature, hemp grows rapidly, maturing in as few as 90 days. Turning it into pulp requires less chemicals, water, and energy than wood, and it can be used to make a vast array of paper types, from greeting cards to label paper, cardstock, and packaging.
“Before, hemp stalks never got utilized, other than being tilled under out on the fields,” says Lehrburger. “Now, they can be repurposed to make paper that’s a benefit to the environment on every level.”
Lehrburger sees extensive potential for the hemp-to-paper process. Since hemp can be raised nearly anywhere, refineries using this process can be set up across the country. Working with Mohawk helped prove the viability of hemp fiber for pulp while simultaneously fostering a new supply chain. Demand from the CBD and packaging industries alone present a massive opportunity to make a meaningful environmental impact.
“It’s a significant new invention,” Lehrburger says, “and I believe it’ll be very significant for the new century."