Hemp and The War of Paper

March 26, 2010 – This article attempts to break down the different groups of people in the War of Paper debate. There are three distinct groups. These groups aren’t tied together by anything except a common agenda, as I see it. The first group to be highlighted is what I call the Recycler’s, the second group is the Organic Thinkers, and third group, is the Traditionalists.

In the world of the Recyclers, the main part you can do to help trees and the environment is to recycle. Consequently, this group does not publish, explain, or research anything unless it’s about recycling. According to them, when you follow their prescribed ways you will be the one who is on the cutting edge of saving the planet. In their worldview, this begins and ends with recycling.

Within the Organic people, they believe the only way to save the planet (referring to trees here) is by using plants for making paper. They publish, research, and explain the negatives of the one and the positives of their own position. Within this group, they have comprehensive studies, and complete lifestyles you can live in order to propagate the way they believe.

Another segment of people (one I call the Traditionalists) say that trees are a sustainable industry, and do not need to be saved but managed. If we manage these resources properly, then this, according to them, sustainable industry will keep people employed, allow rural towns to grow, and generally make life better for everyone. This way of thinking, colors their Worldview, so they publish, research, and explain the particulars, benefits, and the reasons the others are wrong and they are right.

In each view, there are solid benefits as well as problems. Why look at these points of view if they all are equal? I asked myself the same question, until I realized that we can’t have a proper opinion until we look at all the different views objectively. 90% of us already have a strong opinion on these things. Try to look at each of these different views so we can come to an informed opinion rather than emotional one.

This War of Paper has changed printing and the World of Paper, garbage disposal, and even how we view our trash dramatically. Right now, the recyclers have the biggest voice in the marketplace so we will start with them, after that we will look at the Organics, then finally the Virgin Wood People.

This will only be a thumbnail sketch of each groups views, if you desire to study more then please go to google and look up each groups articles and points of view there is an extensive amount of information for each.

The Recycling Thinkers Way of Life

The Recyclers have very strong public support for their arguments and have succeeded in bringing their agenda to the mainstream in a relatively short period of time. Most over thirty people remember the days before recycling became important, garbage was just that, garbage. We never took the time to think about what happened to garbage we were tossing. Our only thought was to get rid of the rubbish. Now you feel a bit sheepish if you accidentally throw away an aluminum can or plastic bottle. This has been the effect of the Recyclers world view coming to the mainstream.

How did this agenda become popular so fast? I looked at it in a very general way, and found it’s easy to see why. There has been an exponential growth in everything from knowledge to communication Worldwide since the 1950’s. What has happened since the end of World War II has been staggering when you consider the growth of the infrastructure of cities, population growth, product diversity, or just the number of consumers in general.

Since the fifties, most people have changed from making things to buying things, from being rural people to urban people; we have all become consumers. There is also a general feeling amongst the developed World’s population that you can have whatever you want. Luxury in everything has been most people’s goals since the 50’s.

Consequently, we have gone through stages of growth. Stages which I have tried to look at and see where the general trends lie so we can use them to pinpoint why things like recycling have become popular so fast. I am very simple and look at the stages of growth in the manner enumerated below.

1. Glutton stage 1950-1987

Whatever you see you get or use

2. I Need It stage 1987-1998

You have elevated your wants so your needs become greater.

3. The Uh Oh stage 1998-present

You realize that your needs and wants are so far removed from what’s normal you try to distance yourself from the excesses of the glutton stage.

In today’s day and age, we are at the Uh Oh stage across the board. The people who push recycling are up to their ears in the Uh Oh stage and make sure you hear it.

Here are (according to them) their most important points:

1. Depending on the study between 14-59% of landfills is filled with paper; landfills will soon be full therefore causing us to have our garbage disposed of in other ways. Why start later when we can look for solutions now.

2. Virgin Paper (paper products made from raw logs) use huge amounts of chlorine or chlorine based products, to bleach the fibers. This could and has in certain instances caused environment disasters because of the waste products and transportation of the chlorine.

3. For every ton of paper recycled 30000 liters of water are saved

4. For every ton of paper recycled 3000-4000 kw of power are saved (enough for an average three bedroom home for a year)

5. 95% of Air Pollution made by the virgin paper process is averted because of the process of recycling.

6. Paper is biodegradable so it produces methane as it degrades, this is a greenhouse causing gas, limiting paper in landfills therefore limits the greenhouse effect

7. Recycled Paper saves tree’s

Recycled paper is now used for egg cartons, animal bedding, grocery bags, wood pellets, stationary, envelopes, and many other products. Products have to have a seal of recycled paper on them or most companies do not even consider buying the product. This marketing tool of the Recyclers has become a flashpoint for companies to use when they want the consumer to know they care.

Because of these very innovative ideas the Recycling people have gotten their agenda farther than the other two. They have made their way of thinking so ingrained that laws are now being formulated, which incorporate their agenda. Recycling has gone from just a nice alternative to how we live in a short twenty-year span. Kudos’ to the intelligentsia of the Recyclers.

Using Organic Alternatives

The Organics are Green Friendly people (as they call themselves). They try to push their green agenda and have begun to get a foothold in the public arena, going as far as having political parties committed to their agenda. When these people explain how they think of paper and paper products, they get downright nasty in their assertions of being the only viable alternative to virgin paper making, which to most of them include recycled paper because of the blends with virgin pulp that is common for recycled paper.

The alternatives they list are very good. They are proponents of using hemp, cornstalks, flax, kenaf, and cotton to make paper. They assert that all these plants are easily grown and not harmful to the environment, (the traditionalists would disagree on both counts) unlike the harvesting of tree’s are harmful. They also assert that recycled paper is a standard mix of 30% recycled material to 70% new material, which makes it a better option but still not completely environmental friendly.

Here is their list of benefits to using organic materials:

1. Using annual crops such as cotton, flax, hemp, and kenaf are rapidly renewable resources, which make them more environmentally friendly as well as being able to create jobs for farmers.

2. Cotton, flax, hemp, and kenaf have longer and stronger fibre’s than wood therefore allowing the recycled fibre’s to withstand more recycling

3. Old Growth forests make up 16% of virgin tree fiber for paper

4. 80% of the Worlds Old-Growth forest has been lost to logging, in some countries its over 95%

5. 40% of the World’s logging goes to Industrial Paper Making

6. The Worldwide Paper Making Industry is the 5th Largest

7. Paper comprises 40% of the municipal solid waste in Developed Nations

8. A ton of organic alternative paper is used to make a ton of recycled organic paper whereas there is needed 2-3.5 tons of old wood fibre to make a ton of recycled wood fibre paper. This savings of material cuts down on waste, water, and chemical use.

The Organic paper people make strong arguments against recycling by saying that the recycle process is essentially the same as the regular process. Instead of pure chlorine what is used is derivatives of chlorine such as peroxide, which is making the recycled paper industry rely on chlorine just as much as the virgin paper industry. It also costs more to produce recycled paper so it increases the cost of living. They point out that the savings in their process from using different fibers allow them to use organic chemicals thus eliminating any hazard to the environment.

This way of thinking is relatively new to the public arena and has gotten little attention from Big business. The Organics say that they can produce paper with the same quality as virgin wood pulp. Their bleaching methods are environmental friendly and consistent with the green agenda they espouse. They say, if the funding for their products would materialize then they could produce high quality paper with no environmental footprints.

Virgin Paper

These people are the old guard and usually fit into the I Need It stage or the Glutton stage, but because of regulations and laws, the gluttons are mostly long gone. They are proponents of keeping paper made by raw logs, which they refer to as sustainable. They feel that if a forest is managed properly then it is a sustainable way to keep people employed, allow rural communities to stay rural (as most loggers come from small communities because that is where the logs come from), give opportunities for the forests to sustain life because of the natural way the forest renews itself after being clear-cut.

Most of the people that are proponents of this way of thinking come from middle or lower middle class backgrounds. Mostly these people have worked from the time they were able to work sometimes as early as 16, consequently they haven’t gone to college so the defense of their worldview is hard to find. Below are some points that I have found concerning their way of thinking.

1. Managed forests reduce fires

2. Managed forests reduce bug epidemics

3. Managed forests keep the animal population growing because of the area clear cutting opens up to food like berries, vines, and grasses eaten by animals

4. Clear cutting allows new trees to grow, thereby allowing more oxygen to be released into the air and more carbon dioxide to be broken down. Old tree’s release far less oxygen than new trees because the growing process has slowed down for an old tree. A new tree needs to go through its initial stage of growth which means more carbon dioxide changed to oxygen. Old trees also drop larger branches, which decay and release more carbon dioxide into the air than they process.

5. The wood for paper is called pulpwood, which is a softer wood; you will never see hardwoods, exotic woods, or maples cut for paper. Pulpwood is generally the slag and chips mills cannot use for lumber. Pulp trees are easily planted and regrown, most pulp trees have a forest life of thirty-sixty years, which means that when they are cut it helps the forest renew.

6. Paper Mills employ thousands of men and women who would otherwise not have an income.

7. When managed forests are used, paper is cheaper to produce and therefore opens up industry like small print shops, trucking companies, and the towns economies where the logs are cut or processed. Sometimes these towns can be thousands of kilometers away from where the log is produced into paper, thus helping the people from the harvesting point to the processing point.

8. Wood fiber paper holds more of the cancer causing agents released by inks. Recycled paper and organic blends expel the cancer causing agents so the printer is at a far higher risk of getting cancer.

The Virgin Wood people say, deforestation is a difficult subject for the industry because it certainly looks deforested when all the trees are cut down in a given area. These people say however, that the cutting of trees is not sufficient in itself to cause deforestation.

What causes deforestation is when the forest is removed permanently. The unsightly nature of a recently harvested forest, even if it is going to grow back eventually, will give the impression of environmental destruction and deforestation, but the facts are otherwise according to the Virgin Wood people.

The Virgin Wood people insist it is the farm and pasture land that truly represents deforestation. These farmlands have been cleared of forest long ago for food crops and fodder, which have permanently replaced the forest.

More important, they say, if we stopped plowing the farmland for just 5 years in a row, seeds from the surrounding trees, providing there are surrounding trees still, would blow in and the whole area would be blanketed in new tree seedlings. Within 80 years, they say, you would never know there had been a farm there. The entire area would be reforested again, just by leaving it alone.

Friendly farmers growing our food, or nice carpenters building our houses nearly always cause deforestation. The virgin Wood people explain that true deforestation is not an evil plot; it is something we do in order to feed and house the 6 billion and growing human population.


When it comes to paper there are three things that are never going to change. We need it, we will continue to use it, and there are many ways to make it. Within these three things, we should find the groundwork to combine our understanding. Rather than allowing petty jealousy or misunderstanding stand in the way, we should honestly look at the options and use all of them for the betterment of the World. I guess I’m saying. Why can’t we all just get along?

My view is colored by my own opinions, but I see how each could benefit the other. We shouldn’t have solid lines of delineation between the three ways of thinking. I believe that paper mills could incorporate the different ways of making paper. I don’t believe it should be a war, instead we should expect these three groups (who are the fifth largest industry in the world, it’s not just the virgin people who fit in this category, but when you combine the recycled mills and organic paper industries you find then it’s the fifth largest industry in the world. This is never spoken by the organic people) to work together, then the consumers could honestly decide which way is best for them.

Whatever type of paper you want should be available. If we could as a society, stop pointing fingers at who is hurting the environment and who is helping, realizing that basically within the developed world we are mostly on the same page, we would be better off all around.

I’m not talking about just allowing these industries to regulate themselves, which could lead to the raping of the forests or farmlands. What I’m proposing, is allowing for each viable environmental friendly option to be pursued, no matter what arena it is in. Instead of holding our bias’s we should put forward the best option.

The knowledge of keeping the environment safe in respect to paper and paper products, is within these three groups collectively, it isn’t exclusive to one. If they would sit down together and come up with a consensus, then our War of Paper would be over and we could move from the Uh Oh stage to the Mature Stage. This is just one persons opinion on a very divisive topic. Hopefully now you will have your own!

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