Hemp is a genetically diverse and variable crop which can be used in an estimated 50,000 different products across a wide spectrum of industries: from textiles to food products, building materials to bio-plastics, nutraceuticals to nanomaterials, ethanol to animal bedding. The introduction of industrial Hemp-based materials in the consumer products marketplace has been growing steadily over the last two decades as more industrialised countries allow farming, processing and manufacturing. But why is Hemp so important? Hemp is carbon negative. Like all plants, Hemp removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, only much, much faster. Trees for instance, take 20 years to grow, while Hemp by contrast, matures in three to four months and depending upon the climate can be replanted several times a year. If you’ve ever wondered why Hemp was used for rope, sails, clothing and paper for thousands of years, it’s because Hemp fibres are incredibly strong, dense with the carbon that Hemp sucks out of the air.
So when Hemp is used to manufacture a durable good like a car, all that CO2 Hemp removed from the atmosphere, is sequestered (carbon sequestering). Making everything we possibly can from Hemp is an effective means of reversing some of the effects of the environmental damage caused by climate change. Advancements in decortication techniques are the foundation of Hemp refinement and product innovation technology. Canadian Greenfield has developed manufacturing machinery that takes raw Hemp (from the field) and processes it. Once processed, the raw Hemp gets separated into fibres, hurds and leaves. These separate Hemp derivatives allow for special elemental mixing to produce unique Hemp products in mass production. Some intriguing products that use industrial Hemp as either a primary or secondary raw material include, but are not limited to, the following:
Sunglasses and Ski Goggles
In 2014, Sam Whitten, a product design student in Glasgow, Scotland, noticed a gap in the Hemp market; sunglasses. Hemp Eyewear prototypes were made by hand, initially at school. Whitten and business partner Bradley Smith raised over $46,000 dollars to create their sustainable, eco-friendly company, achieving their goal of promoting hemp as a renewable resource through innovative design. Hemp Eyewear utilises leading edge sustainable technology and traditional artisanal techniques to manufacture glasses. Each frame is a handcrafted composite of Hemp and flax fibres, making them strong and lightweight. The average pair of Wayfarer sunglasses weighs >42 grams (1.5 ounces), an Hemp Eyewear pair weighs less than half that. Hemp Eyewear’s Carl Zeiss lenses are made from >70% biological materials and the glasses are individual, with no two fibre patterns the same. They are vegan, recyclable and the packaging is sustainable. Hemp Eyewear also designs and sells phone cases and backpacks (rucksacks). Bosky MK2 Snow Goggles (designed in Portland, Oregon, US, made in Italy) feature a flexible plant-based urethane frame, tear-resistant Hemp ventilation system and non-toxic 100% recycled Polartec fleece face cushioning. In a crowded marketplace, the Bosky goggles are the first polyurethane foam-free product and hemp ventilation system to make it to commercialisation.
Clothing and Accessories
Why Hemp clothing? Hemp fabric has proved to be far superior to its counterparts in almost every way. Hemp fibre is more porous and breathable, allowing your skin to breathe. Hemp fibre is the most durable of any plant and is eco-friendly and sustainable whereas cotton is a water-intensive crop and uses 25% of the world’s pesticides. Hemp requires 50% less water to grow than cotton and requires no use of pesticides. Most Hemp T-shirts available in the US market are mixed with a little bit of organic cotton. It’s typically a 60% Hemp / 40% cotton mix. They’re some of the most durable shirts you’ll ever wear. Hemp fibre is stronger than synthetics, insulates extremely well, protects from UV rays and fights mildew and bacteria in sweat. This means Hemp garments stay fresher for longer and can actually biodegrade, which eliminates landfill. By far the most important aspect is it does not leach micro-plastics onto your skin and into the environment during or after washing. Micro-plastics are tiny plastic particles which shed from garments and plastic items over time, byproducts of the petrochemical and synthetics industries.
When synthetic materials are cleaned, damaged, put into landfill, discarded into waterways or the ocean, it all contributes to a huge global problem of mass pollution. The micro-plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans is causing harm to the environment and living organisms. We must cut down on all plastics or switch to bio-plastic alternatives and fully natural products. As a global society we have become accustomed to wearing synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester and unfortunately these fabrics are extremely damaging to the environment. Many industries use synthetics because they are cheap. But this is not acceptable when we have alternatives like Hemp that can last longer and do not pollute the environment. We must produce and utilise these materials and enact real change by demanding better responsibility from the clothing industry.
Benefits of Hemp Paper
1 acre of Hemp can produce as much paper as 4-10 acres of trees over a 20 year cycle.
Hemp stalks grow in 4 months, whereas trees take 20-80 years
Hemp has higher concentration of cellulose than wood, the principal ingredient in paper. Hemp can have have over 70% cellulose content, trees are made up of at most 40% cellulose, requiring toxic chemicals to remove the other 60%.
Hemp has lower lignin content than wood. Hemp contains 5-24% lignin whereas
wood has 20-35%. This is advantageous as lignin must be removed
from the pulp before it can be processed as paper.
Hemp paper is more durable than trees. Hemp paper does not
yellow, crack, or deteriorate like tree paper.
Wider use of Hemp paper can help sustainability efforts to reduce deforestation.
Paper and Packaging Products
Hemp has been an ingredient in paper-making since the advent of paper by the Chinese almost 2,000 years ago. For the last 130 years, Hemp has been all but eliminated from the paper-making process with the development of wood-based pulping. Today Hemp is making a comeback with speciality papers and new processing techniques, from bio-refining to 21st century decortication technology breathing new life into the market. Several entities are looking at a variety of Hemp raw materials to incorporate into numerous paper products that include fine-art paper, packaging board stocks, soft tissue products, rolling papers and commercial grade printing paper in a variety of different paper weights. Green Field Paper Company in California, US, has been making commercial grade Hemp paper since the 1990’s. Tree Free Hemp provides Hemp-blended paper products, custom Hemp printing services and Hemp packaging. The Hemp for their paper is grown and milled throughout North America and printed in northern Colorado (Tree Free Hemp is part of the Colorado Hemp Company), utilising local sources for production and services. Advocates for Hemp and sustainability, they are committed to promoting the message Hemp is a viable product. In Australia, harvest waste from the Tasmanian Hemp Industry is salvaged by Creative Paper Tasmania for their handmade paper. The stalk of the Hemp plant is used in combination with white cotton, to create a distinct natural colour for their resulting strong, fine-grained, beautiful paper.
American companies like Sana Packaging are creating composites from Hemp and corn. Sana Packaging’s products are created using Hemp hurd, the fibrous woody core of industrial Hemp, combined with corn to create a composite ‘bioplastic’. Working with domestically-sourced materials ensures sustainability of the products. “Our Hemp is sourced domestically in Kentucky, processed in North Dakota and we manufacture in Minnesota and Arizona. All American made, all American supply chain” said a company representative. Hemp.Press targets the Cannabis industry with products that replace boxes or display cards made from trees with Hemp paper. Matthew Glyer opened Hemp Press in 2013 in Oregon and became the proprietor of the first exclusively Hemp paper print shop in the US, the only printing company of its kind. “Our big goal is to keep manufacturing in the United States and to source the fibre from the United States”, Glyer said.
Previously, the primary source for Hemp fibre was Canada, where the government both subsidised and funded the industrial Hemp industry. However, since funds for Hemp research and production dried up a few years ago, growers and enthusiasts in the US have been searching for a way to bring the industrial Hemp industry to the US. “Currently, we do not really have the infrastructure to process hemp fibre”, Glyer said, expressing a desire to inspire farmers to actually grow Hemp. Glyer and his colleagues want to turn Hemp into a mainstream agricultural commodity and they hope their printing business will help people see Hemp as a useful and sustainable crop that could help save the planet. These companies are involved in lobbying to change Cannabis laws. Currently, most US states with legal medical or recreational Cannabis programs prohibit the re-use of packaging at Cannabis dispensaries. If those laws changed, consumers would be able to bring their Hemp packaging back to the dispensary to be refilled with fresh flower, extract, or pre-rolled joints.
Hemp Composites for Automobiles
High-end automobile manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Volkswagen are using Hemp-based composites and plastics for interior door panelling, dashboards, body moulding and hemp-based textiles for interior upholstery. Auto manufacturers and even budding independent aircraft entrepreneurs are looking to include more Hemp and natural fibre products into their production models to lighten, strengthen and make their products more fuel- efficient and environmentally friendly.
BMW, one of the largest car manufactures in the world, is utilising industrial Hemp based biocomposites in their “i3” electric car. By lowering the weight, engineers have increased the distance the electric car can travel. The BMW i3 is said to be made from 95% recyclable materials. Hemp can be used for a variety of industrial applications but, one of the most exciting and rapidly expanding is the use of Hemp fibres as a reinforcement in bio-composites. Plant materials such as soy, canola, or corn can be mixed with Hemp to achieve a 100% biocomposite but, German car companies like Mercedes, Audi and BMW choose to blend plant based materials with thermoplastics to achieve superior composites that can hold any shape and a resulting material that is two-to-three times stronger than steel. Hemp bio-composites can also be modelled into almost any shape to create a variety of different products that include interior substrates, furniture, surfboards, kitchen counters, flooring for houses and a number of other finished goods.
Hemp foods have been categorised as super-foods and are the leading market driver for Hemp products in the United States. There are dozens of Hemp-based food brands lining shelves at natural grocers like Whole Foods, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s as well as big-box retailers like Sam’s Club, Costco and Target. In Australia, major supermarket chains have only recently jumped on the bandwagon with Australian and imported Hemp products. Online suppliers like the Hemp Store (New South Wales) have been supplying patrons for years with a limited range of products but that same range is now exploding with legalisation of Hemp foods for human consumption Australia-wide in 2017 (finally)! High in protein, balanced in Omega 3, 6 and 9, full of antioxidants, amino acids and other essential nutrients, products including Hemp milk, hulled and toasted seeds, energy bars, Hemp seed oil, cereal and Hemp protein powder are finding their way into the diets of health-conscious consumers.
Hemp skincare products are better than conventional products, offering a superior ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 is great for smoothing and firming skin and helps improve skin cell structure, ridding cells of waste products. Hemp oil is also packed with vitamins;
- Vitamin B6 encourages firmer skin by providing beneficial fatty acids
- Vitamin C is an essential building block of collagen that helps skin elasticity, tone and brightness
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that encourages healthy skin-tissue growth
And finally, key amino acids in Hemp oil prevent wrinkles and allow the skin to retain more moisture, helping with dry skin, eczema or psoriasis and stretch marks.
The ingredients list on a shampoo bottle probably contains many unrecognisable ingredients. Hemp boutique brands which use only natural formulations offer the best results. Hemp is used in soaps because of its unsurpassed essential fatty acid (EFA) content, which makes the soaps smoother and less drying. Dr. Bronner’s is a leading US soap brand that uses Hemp. Around for over 100 years and a popular choice, they use all organic and sustainable ingredients suitable for sensitive or acne-prone skin.
Using Hemp products can help in a myriad of unique ways. Hemp supplies hair with significant amounts of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, zinc, phosphate, iron and magnesium. Vitamin E works to prevent split ends and keeps hair colour vibrant. Zinc helps strengthen hair follicles and prevents hair loss altogether. Hemp also enables the process of keratin creation, which helps develop stronger and more resilient hair and can prevent serious hair loss as a result of iron deficiency. Hemp has a comedogenic rating (comedo, the least severe form of acne, is the result of a clogged pore) of 0 out of 5, which means that it will not clog pores. Hemp reduces the redness of pimples and prevents future breakouts. Hemp’s high levels of Omega-3 fatty acid content directly treats skin conditions including acne. Vitamin D boosts elasticity, stimulates collagen production, enhances radiance and lessens lines and the appearance of dark spots on the face. Hemp increases skin elasticity and water retention capacity. Hemp balm products ease muscular aches, reduce swelling and pain, promoting full body healing and raising melatonin levels thousands of times higher than normal. Hemp boosts the skin’s UV defence and neutralises damaging free radicals. Hemp also makes hands softer while being naturally antibiotic and anti-fungal.
Hemp versus Conventional Body Care Products
|Type||Type of Oil||Scent||Effect on Skin||Eco-friendly?|
|Hemp Products||All natural plant based Hemp oil||Natural aroma with a subtle nutty, earthy undertone||Nourishes skin with variety of minerals and vitamins||Yes, completely renewable|
|Conventional Products||Originated from crude oil||Contain >30+ ingredients to offer heavy fragrance from chemicals||Often drys skin and hair, negatively alters microbia balance on skin||No, contains synthetic and toxic chemicals|
Hemp Building Materials
Sustainable building practices are on the rise to create more resource-efficient models for construction, renovation, operation, maintenance and demolition. Using industrial Hemp fibre and hurd derived from the stalks, dozens of products are being created that are environmentally superior to the wood and petroleum-based products that have traditionally been used.
Industrial Hemp can be made into insulation, Hempcrete, particle board, plaster, roofing, flooring and finishing products such as caulking, sealants, varnishes and paints. Using these materials offers significant environmental benefits including regulating warm and cool temperatures and reducing energy costs. Hemp is also non-toxic and is considered a carbon-sink as it traps carbon dioxide (CO2) when it accumulates.
One of the most exciting innovations in the last few years is the development of graphene-like nano-sheets used for supercapacitor electrodes created from industrial Hemp bast fibre. This material exhibits excellent electrochemical performance at a significantly lower cost to that of industry standard graphene materials. Researchers in Canada have been producing favourable data that indicate Hemp-based supercapacitors offer an affordable next generation energy source to replace rechargeable batteries for applications such as electric cars, power tools and mobile devices. Biomolecular engineers discovered Hemp can be converted into battery materials, specifically carbon nanosheets and supercapacitors, and are being explored as a source of clean, green, renewable energy. Among the pioneering groups in this field is CQuest Partners LLC, a green technology startup in New York that received a hefty state grant to develop a research facility. CQuest’s Hemp-based supercapacitors have been tested and outperform current commercial models while operating under freezing temperatures of upwards to 93.3°C (200°F), although Hemp carbon nanosheets cannot do everything that graphene does. With the global push towards renewable energy, however, Hemp based carbon nanosheets are revolutionary, not only for their cost effectiveness and availability versus the more popular graphene but because of their mass market potential.
Hemp 3-D Printing Filament and Bio-plastics
Hemp is making it’s way into a variety of plastic-based applications and manufacturers are beginning to take a serious look at greening up their offerings with Hemp while reducing the use of petroleum and synthetic materials. Several developers are working on 3-D printing filaments made from industrial Hemp and other plant-based materials. Kanesis (Italy) and Matterlabs are just two companies exploring small-scale 3-D Hemp printing ideas. Envirock Rapid Building Systems has developed a full-scale onsite Monolithic 3-D Building System that prints dome-style structures from >18 sq.m. (200 sq. ft) to >167 sq.m. (1,800 sq. ft), in one or two level configurations. Significant advancement of Hemp-based 3-D printing technology is envisaged in the coming years. In Australia, Nimbin Hemp Products offers a range of Hemp 3-D printing filaments among other upcycled and recycled filaments. Mirreco, another Australian company, has developed carbon-neutral hemp panels that can be 3D printed into floors, walls and roofs, “helping build the world-wide Hemp industry from the ground up with our revolutionary, cutting-edge Hemp processing technology in order to create fully sustainable ‘off the grid’ building solutions”.
“Hemp cellulose can be extracted and used to make cellophane, rayon, celluloid and a range of related plastics” reported Sensi Seeds in 2014. “Hemp is known to contain around 65-70% cellulose and is considered a good source (wood contains around 40%, flax 65-75% and cotton up to 90%) that has particular promise due to its relative sustainability and low environmental impact”. While 100% Hemp-based plastic is still a rarity, some “composite bioplastics”, made from a combination of Hemp and other plant sources, are already widely in use. One of the most provocative examples of Hemp’s potential plastic future could come from LEGO Group, maker of the ubiquitous building block toy, which announced plans to invest $150 million to look into replacing petro-plastics with sustainable materials by 2030, promising to phase out fossil-fuel based resin entirely.
Pure cellulose extracted from recycled and reclaimed papers, industrial Hemp, discarded natural fabrics, waste and renewable plants, is sustainably transformed into a strong, durable, flexible base material called ZEOFORM™. An Australian company has developed and patented a revolutionary eco-friendly industrial material, derived from raw cellulose, the most abundant source of fibre on the planet. Similar in look, feel and function to a dense hardwood, ZEOFORM can be sprayed, moulded or formed into infinite shapes, sizes, colours and variations, including specialised substrates for unique applications in any industry requiring woods, plastics and resins for manufacturing. ZEOFORM is truly 100% eco-friendly, with no glues, binders, chemicals or additives of any kind. A unique patented process produces a beautiful, versatile, extremely strong material for thousands of products used every day, worldwide. ZEOFORM could replace plastic and wood composites.
Comparing the mechanical properties of ZEOFORM with numerous hard plastics and composite chipboards, ZEOFORM competes favourably for compression and tensile strength, hardness and durability etc without any toxic ingredients. ZEOFORM’s biggest advantages are its only two ingredients; plant fibres + water. Plant fibres are the largest renewable resource on the planet and ZEOFORM has the potential to offer a non-toxic process chain from fibre in the field to finished product with full biodegradability after products are discarded. ZEOFORM is a non-polluting biomass resulting in low net carbon emissions.
Hemp for Soil Remediation and Reclamation
In 2017, Gavin Stonehouse, a graduate student in plant biology at Colorado State University, started cultivating Hemp in a special soil mixture dosed with varying levels of selenium. A mineral that occurs naturally in most of the western United States, selenium is also a nasty environmental pollutant when produced in excess by industrial and agricultural activities. Stonehouse wanted to find out if Hemp could handle the selenium. If the plants thrived, it would be an important first step towards proving claims that industrial Hemp naturally cleans soils contaminated with a multitude of toxic substances, known as ‘bioremediation’ or ‘phytoremediation’. The Hemp was super tolerant of the selenium, said Stonehouse. Not a single plant died and only a few, exposed to the highest doses, showed signs of stress. The implications of the experiment go beyond just potential for healthier soil. “If you can clean up the environment and still get a commercial product” says Stonehouse, “you are killing two birds with one stone”.
The term ‘phytoremediation’ was coined by scientist, Dr Ilya Raskin, of Rutgers University’s Biotechnology Centre for Agriculture and the Environment, who was a member of the original task force sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to examine the Chernobyl site. In 1998 industrial Hemp was planted for the purpose of removing contaminants near Chernobyl. “Hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have been able to find” said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scienst. “For the specific contaminants that we tested, Hemp demonstrated very good phytoremediation properties” said Dushenkov. In Belarus, site of the original Chernobyl disaster, they are using Hemp to help clean up the soil and processing the Hemp into biofuel.
Phytoremediation is a process that takes advantage of the fact that green plants can extract and concentrate certain elements within their ecosystem. For example, some plants can grow in metal-laden soils, extract certain metals through their root systems and accumulate them in their tissues without being damaged. In this way, pollutants are either removed from the soil and groundwater or rendered harmless. In 2001, a team of German researchers confirmed the Chernobyl results by showing Hemp was able to extract lead, cadmium and nickel from a plot of land contaminated with sewage sludge. In 2011, hundreds of farmers in Puglia, Italy, started testing the theory, planting Hemp in a long-term effort to clean up fields disastrously polluted by a massive steel plant. Farmers have since been cleared to sell harvested Hemp fibre for industrial use.
|Concentration of metal (mg/kg)||Root||Shoot|
|Lead||29 mg/kg||30 mg/kg|
|Copper||29 mg/kg||18.2 mg/kg|
|Zinc||27 mg/kg||43.9 kg/kg|
|Nickel||13.6 kg/mg||11.3 mg/kg|
|Cobalt||24.7 mg/kg||14.8 mg/kg|
|Chromium||29.7 mg/kg||14.5 mg/kg|
Industrial hemp has long been considered a good rotational crop because of its ability to detoxify and replenish the soil with nutrients from crops that use pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. It has also been tested with favourable results for phytoremediation in areas where lands are contaminated with various pollutants such as heavy metals, crude oil, chemicals and solvents. Industrial hemp uses less water than traditional crops like corn and cotton all while replenishing nutrients. Taking that one step further, several companies have been developing products using the hurd for oil and chemical spill reclamation as well as loss-circulation materials. Hemp hurd is porous, extremely absorbent and performs like a sponge. Industrial Hemp Manufacturing, LLC has two products on the market currently: DrillWall for loss-circulation materials and SpillSuck for oil and chemical spill reclamation.
Expanded from Hot consumer products made from Hemp