Industrial hemp or eucalyptus paper?

An environmental comparison using life cycle assessment
  • Ricardo da Silva VieiraEmail author
  • Paulo Canaveira
  • Ana da Simões
  • Tiago Domingos


Background, aim, and scope

Pulp and paper production is one of the most important Portuguese economic activities. Mostly based on eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), nearly 70% of the pulp produced is exported, mainly to the European Union. The aim of this paper is to compare the environmental impacts of the production of Portuguese printing and writing paper based on eucalyptus with those from the production of paper from industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa).

Materials and methods

We have used a life cycle assessment approach to compare both types of paper. The functional unit used was a ton of white printing and writing paper. Data was mostly derived from the Portuguese literature for eucalyptus and from scientific literature for hemp. The impact categories/indicators taken into account were global warming, photochemical oxidant formation (summer smog), acidification, eutrophication, and direct land use.

Results and discussion

Industrial hemp presents higher environmental impacts than eucalyptus paper in all environmental categories analyzed. The main differences are in the crop and the pulp production stages. This is because hemp makes use of higher number of mechanical operations and larger amounts of fertilizer in the former and larger amounts of chemical additives in the latter.


There is scope for improving industrial hemp paper production. We present some suggestions on how to reduce some of the environmental impacts identified for hemp, so that the pulp and paper industry can continue its progress towards a more environmentally friendly paper production.

Recommendations and perspectives

New studies could be based on the alternatives presented throughout the paper for improving hemp paper. Further studies should incorporate analyses on water consumption, soil erosion, soil nutrient depletion, and impacts on biodiversity.


Cannabis sativa Eucalyptus globulus Eucalyptus Hemp LCA Portugal Pulp and paper 



This research has been funded by FCT, under the grant “General Theory of Sustainability and Application to Agriculture,” POCTI/MGS/47731/2002.


  1. Alden DM, Proops JLR, Gay PW (1998) Industrial hemp's double dividend: a study for the USA. Ecol Econ 25:291–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alves AM, Pereira JS, Silva JMN (2007) A Introdução e a Expansão do Eucalipto em Portugal. In: Alves AM, Pereira JS, Silva JMN (eds) O Eucaliptal em Portugal. Impactes Ambientais e Investigação Científica. ISA Press, Lisbon, pp 13–24Google Scholar
  3. Antunes P, Santos R, Martinho S, Lobo G (2003) Estudo sobre Sector Eléctrico e Ambiente. Relatório Síntese. Eco-Man, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, LisbonGoogle Scholar
  4. Carneiro M, Serrão V, Fabião A, Madeira M, Balsemão I, Hilário L (2009) Does harvest residue management influence biomass and nutrient accumulation in understory vegetation of Eucalyptus globulus labill. plantations in a mediterranean environment? For Ecol Manag 257:527–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. CELPA (2008) Boletim Estatístico 2007. CELPA, LisbonGoogle Scholar
  6. Cherrett N, Barrett J, Clemett A, Chadwick M, Chadwick MJ (2005) Ecological footprint and water analysis of cotton, hemp and polyester. Stockholm Environment Institute, YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Corbeels M, McMurtrie RE, Pepper DA, Mendham DS, Grove TS, O'Connell AM (2005) Long-term changes in productivity of eucalypt plantations under different harvest residue and nitrogen management practices: a modelling analysis. For Ecol Manag 217:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cortez N, Madeira M (2000) Assessment of nutrient cycling in a Eucalyptus globulus plantation as related to soil fertility management. Vila RealGoogle Scholar
  9. Crutzen PJ, Mosier AR, Smith KA, Winiwarter W (2008) N2O release from agro-biofuel production negates global warming reduction by replacing fossil fuels. Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 8:389–395Google Scholar
  10. das Tapas K, Houtman C (2004) Evaluating chemical-, mechanical-, and bio-pulping processes and their sustainability characterization using life-cycle assessment. Environ Prog 23:347–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. di Bari V, Campi P, Colucci R, Mastrorilli M (2004) Potential productivity of fibre hemp in Southern Europe. Euphytica 140:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dias AC, Lopes E, Arroja L, Capela I, Pereira F (2002) Life cycle assessment of paper production from Eucalyptus globulus—case study of the Portuguese industry. Appita J 55:21–26Google Scholar
  13. Dias AC, Arroja L, Capela I (2007) Life cycle assessment of printing and writing paper produced in Portugal. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12:521–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dutt D, Upadhyaya JS, Tyagi CH, Kumar A, Lal M (2008) Studies in Ipomea carnea and Cannabis sativa as an alternative pulp blend for softwood: an optimization of kraft delignification process. Ind Crops Prod 28:128–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. ESU-ETHZ (1994) Okoinventare fur Energiesysteme. ETH ZurichGoogle Scholar
  16. Fabião A, Carneiro M, Lousã M, Madeira M (2007) Os Impactes do Eucalyptal na Biodiversidade da Vegetação sob Coberto. In: Alves AM, Pereira JS, Silva JMN (eds) O Eucaliptal em Portugal. Impactes Ambientais e Investigação Científica. ISA Press, Lisbon, pp 177–206Google Scholar
  17. Fu GZ, Chan AW, Minns DE (2005) Preliminary assessment of the environmental benefits of enzime bleaching for pulp and paper making. Int J Life Cycle Assess 10:136–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harris AT, Riddlestone S, Bell Z, Hartwell PR (2008) Towards zero emission pulp and paper production: the BioRegional MiniMill. J Clean Prod 16:1971–1979CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hauschild M, Wenzel H (1998) Environmental assessment of products. Volume 2: scientific background. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Heijungs R, Guinée JB, Huppes G, Lankreijer RM, Udo de Haes HA, Wegener Sleeswij KA, Ansems AMM, Eggels PG, van Duin R, de Goede HP (1992) Environmental life cycle assessment of products. guide and backgrounds. CML, Leiden University, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  21. Henriques JR, Carneiro JB (2001) Custo de Execução das Principais Tarefas Agrícolas (mão-de-obra e máquinas). IHERA - Instituto de Hidráulica, Engenharia Rural e Ambiente, LisboaGoogle Scholar
  22. IDEMAT (1996) IDEMAT database. Delft University of Technology, Industrial Design EngineeringGoogle Scholar
  23. IPCC (2001) Climate change 2001: the scientific basis. Contribution of working group I to the third assessment of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. IPPC (2001) Reference document on best available techniques in the pulp and paper industry. European Commission and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). Accessed: July 2002
  25. Jones HE, Madeira M, Herraez LDJ, Fabião A, González-Rio F, Fernandez Marcos M, Gomez C, Tomé M, Feith H, Magalhães MC, Howson G (1999) The effect of organic-matter management on the productivity of Eucalyptus globulus stands in Spain and Portugal: tree growth and harvest residue decomposition in relation to site and treatment. For Ecol Manag 122:73–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lindfors LG, Christiansen K, Hoffman L, Virtanen Y, Juntilla V, Hanssen O-J, Rønning A, Ekvall T, Finnveden G (1995) Nordic guidelines on life-cycle assessment. Nord 1995:20. Nordic Council of Ministers, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  27. Lopes E, Dias AC, Arroja L, Capela I, Pereira F (2003) Application of the life cycle assessment to the Portuguese pulp and paper industry. J Clean Prod 11:51–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mosier A, Kroeze C, Nevison C, Oenema O, Seitzinger S, van Cleemput O (1998) Closing the global N2O budget: nitrous oxide emissions through the agricultural nitrogen cycle. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 52:225–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pokhrel D, Viraraghavan T (2004) Treatment of pulp and paper mill wastewater—a review. Sci Total Environ 333:37–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. PRé Consultants (1996) BUWAL 250 database. PRé Consultants, BernGoogle Scholar
  31. Soares P, Tomé M, Pereira JS (2007) A productividade do eucaliptal. In: Alves AM, Pereira JS, Silva JMN (eds) O Eucaliptal em Portugal. Impactes Ambientais e Investigação Científica. ISA Press, Lisbon, pp 27–59Google Scholar
  32. Stevenson FJ, Cole MA (1999) Cycles of soil. Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, micronutrients. John Wiley and Sons, Inc, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Stirling A, Mayer S (2000) Precautionary approaches to the appraisal of risk: a case study of a genetically modified crop. Int J Occup Health 6:342–356Google Scholar
  34. StoraEnso (2002) Environment and resources 2001. StoraEnso, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  35. Tomé M, Ribeiro F, Soares P (2001) O modelo Globulus 2.1. Relatórios Técnico-cientificos do GIMREF. Insituto Superior de Agronomia, Departamento de Engenharia Florestal, LisbonGoogle Scholar
  36. van der Werf H, Petit J, Sanders J (2005) The environmental impacts of the production of concentrated feed: the case of pig feed in Bretagne. Agric Syst 83:153–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricardo da Silva Vieira
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paulo Canaveira
    • 2
  • Ana da Simões
    • 1
  • Tiago Domingos
    • 1
  1. 1.Environment and Energy Scientific Area, DEM, and IN+, Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy ResearchInstituto Superior TécnicoLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.CELPA, Portuguese Paper Industry AssociationLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations