Can Industrial Hemp Create Anything?

by | Dec 15, 2021

Written by Hannah Izer

One of the most talked-about topics today is the supply chain and the impact it is having on American manufacturers. In a recent interview with Cannabis Tech, Garrett Bain, President of EcoGen explained that plastic components and consumables were becoming increasingly difficult to source.

When presented with the idea of domestic hemp plastics to end our dependency on Asian sources, he quickly replied, “That’s the Holy Grail of hemp to bring more plastics production back to the United States, and I would love to see that happen domestically.”

Hemp was once a dominant plant across American fields. It was a significant cash crop in the eastern United States until 1937, when it became outlawed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Hemp remained illegal to grow and sell until the 2018 Farm Bill came into effect. This change meant that hemp was made legal again by being removed from the Controlled Substances Act.

Although domestic production of bio-plastics and materials may seem like an ideal solution, with only a few years of legal hemp cultivation in the US, the necessary infrastructure for mass production is still lacking. But the potential has always been there.

Textile manufacturing byproducts and plastic micro-particles increasingly pollute the air, water, and land. With the resurgence of this powerful plant, combined with farming and industrial practices – hemp can be refined into anything. Hemp can be the answer to pressing environmental concerns.

Hemp Plastics to Replace Petroleum Products

Plastic waster is a hot conversation in sustainability circles in our current days. The plastic in use today is fossil-fuel-based and takes over 400 years to decompose. This fact is horrific, considering the billions of tons of plastic already impacting the planet.

From grocery bags to water bottles – refined hemp can replace anything plastic. Hemp is a biodegradable, organic material. While it can be challenging to make a 100% hemp-based alternative to plastic, some companies such as Coca-Cola are already using plastic made out of hemp and other plant fibers.

By switching to hemp and plastic, we would be able to significantly cut down on waste that is being dumped into landfills.

Hemp for Household Fabrics

Hemp has been used for many reasons throughout history to make clothing, rope, and canvas. Christopher Columbus even used hemp to get to America by creating ropes and boats. Even the first American flag was made from hemp fabric.

Cotton and polyester have taken over the clothing industry. Polyester is plastic; cotton contributes to water pollution, soil erosion and uses a lot of insecticides. One acre of hemp can produce as much material as 2-3 acres of cotton and is four times as warm.

Hemp fabric is incredibly durable and only gets softer over time with every wash rather than wearing out over time as cotton fabric inevitably does. In addition to this, hemp-refined clothing is also breathable, UV-protectant, and fire-resistant.

Hempcrete for Home Construction

Concrete, metal, carpet, wood, insulation – these are the basic foundations for building a big structure such as a house, can all be replaced for hemp-refined alternatives.

Hempcrete is an amazing product created from industrial hemp. This hemp and lime concrete mixture are seven times lighter than standard concrete and just as strong. It is also an excellent insulator that is breathable, non-toxic, and pest resistant, with the ability to last for hundreds of years. Not only can the mixture be created into a concrete-like substance, but it can also be molded into bricks.

Alternatively, hemp can be used as a replacement for steel. In fact, hemp, when processed appropriately, is thought to be stronger than steel. Cars have been made out of hemp inside and out and are extremely difficult to dent. Similarly, hemp is growing in popularity as a wood alternative for flooring and paneling.

Using hemp building materials decreases the number of emissions and toxic chemicals released into the environment, reduces the carbon footprint, and minimizes the amount of wood and oil-based plastics used in construction.

A Hemp Bio-Fuel Future?

Renewable energy has experimented well throughout the years. Solar, wind, water, and electric power are all alternative energy methods that have been improved and researched more throughout the years.

Today, hemp can be refined into biodiesel by pressing the hemp seed into oil. Fermented stalk can be used to make ethanol and methanol. Hemp bio-fuel can run in any diesel engine completely unmodified. While it is not the most outstanding fuel alternative, it is much better for the air; unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are biodegradable, non-toxic, and produce less greenhouse gas.

Hemp cultivation may impact many different aspects of environmental issues.

Refined Hemp is Powerful

Industrial hemp is much more than cannabis. With hemp, we have the potential to support our oil systems and reduce waste, as well as produce our natural resources.

Industrial hemp has many uses for building materials. It is green, durable, versatile, and good for the environment. Although it may not be the silver bullet for climate change, it is proven as an excellent alternative for plastics, fabrics, construction materials, and more sustainable biofuels. Embracing industrial hemp means building the necessary infrastructure to make the plant a common and easily accessible option.

Hemp Tech Podcast – Coming this January!

Starting this January, Cannabis Tech is teaming up with Tony Solano of iHemp Manufacturing to discuss some of the most innovative products coming from industrial hemp. Tune in to learn more about the companies that are turning hemp into products we use every day. From durable hemp wood flooring to sporting goods like hemp wood golf clubs and disc golf discs – hemp is finding its way into our homes far beyond the consumable market. We'll talk to the experts and the entrepreneurs pioneering industrial hemp production.