Industrial Uses for Hemp
Once a dominant crop in the United States and throughout the world, cultivators of industrial hemp struggle to receive the required licensing and approval to purchase and plant the seed that will produce a hardy and renewable recourse that can be used better than many of the alternatives that are allowed by law. Is it any wonder that other industries fight to maintain the protective laws that protect them from this ancient competitive plant?
Industrial hemp is a hardy and renewable resource with a long list of applications and uses. Included among these uses are paper, textiles, cordage, building, food, and soil reclamation. The list of uses continues to grow as major companies introduce hemp into their products. The long list of uses causes one to marvel that it has gone from a mandatory plant grown on all farms to one legally prevented from cultivation.
Hemp has been found in objects around the world from cultures over 10,000 years old. It seems strange that in the early 1900s, various industries joined with legislators who fought against the THC in some types of the Cannabis plant. Sadly, the fact that little, if any, of the THC which causes the “high” is present in industrial hemp was disregarded and hemp became a plant either illegal or no longer politically correct to grow.
USES FOR HEMP:
Samples of hemp fabric in China date back to 8,000 BC. Hemp fibers are stronger and softer than cotton and will produce 2 to 3 times of the fiber in an acre. It grows in most locations, requiring less water and no pesticides. Fabrics that include at least 50% hemp will block the sun’s harmful UV rays more efficiently than other fabrics.
Hemp has been blended with many other fibers from silk to cotton, allowing fabrics as strong as those used in strong sofa covers to silk underwear and fine ball gowns. It adds durability to shoes, jeans and other sports clothing.
Hemp has always been used to create twines, ropes and cordage. It provides natural anti-mildew, UV protection, thermodynamic and Hypoallergenic properties.
Food and Beverages
Hemp oil compromises about one-third of the weight of hemp seed. The oil is both edible and highly nutritious, containing essential fatty acids. The seed is about a quarter protein and is a good source of calcium and iron and has more omega-3 than walnuts. All this makes hemp seed and hemp oil a nutritious dietary supplement.
More nutritious and more economical to produce than soybean proteins, hemp seeds can be used in every product made from soy: tofu, vegi burgers, butter, cheese, salad oils, ice cream, milk, etc. It can be ground into a healthy flour to be used in baked goods like pasta, cookies, and breads. Hemp provides a complete protein and the oils, which are rich in lanolin and linolenic acids, are available in ideal ratios for human use.
Recently, hemp oil and seed have been added to iced tea, beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages, and in creation of hemp milk.
Used for paper for more than 2,000 years, hemp is now used in about 0.05% of the worlds paper production. Hemp paper is superior to tree-based paper as it will last hundreds of years without degrading and can be recycled many more times. Add to this the fact that hemp paper requires much less carcinogenic chemicals to manufacture.
Using trees to produce paper products causes deforestation throughout the world. This destroys the oxygen producing plants and biodiversity that provides a healthy planet for us to live on, for no reason.
While it takes years for trees to grow large enough to produce the paper products we use, hemp produces 4 times the raw materials. Hemp can be planted up to 3 times a season and can be recycled up to 10 times. Each acre of hemp produces an average of as much paper as 2 to 4 acres of trees will produce, and the same acreage can be used over and over, rather than the constant search for trees large enough to create all the paper products required in our world.
Hemp can be used for every quality of paper. As it uses none of the acids to bleach the paper, hemp paper manufacturing will reduce wastewater contamination and less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products. Hemp fiber paper does not yellow with age and resists decomposition.
Until 1883, most of the world’s paper was manufactured from industrial hemp. Historically important documents printed on hemp paper include the Gutenberg Bible and the first two drafts of the US Declaration of Independence.
Hemp has been used in multiple building materials, including insulation, fiberboard, pressboard, and hempcrete. Each of these are stronger, lighter, and more environmentally friendly than their alternatives.
Hemp fiberboard has been found to be twice as strong as wood based fiberboard. It is better for the environment as it requires no additional resins in its creation due to naturally occurring lignins that hold it together.
The inner core of the hemp plant, called ‘hurd’ totals 70% of the hemp plant. This is used in housing construction. Silica leached from the soil by the plant combined with unslaked lime forms a chemical bond which is fire and water proof similar to cement. Homes have been built in Hawaii using this type of Hempcrete.
Hemp can be used to produce plastics. Hemp is used in the production of strong, durable, and environmentally-friendly plastic substitutes. Thousands of the products currently made from petroleum-based plastics can be produced from hemp-based composites.
In the early 1940s, Henry Ford produced a prototype car made of hemp and soy plastic. The car had plastic panels “grown from the soil” from a mixture of 70% cellulose fibers from hemp. These panels were 10 times stronger than steel, though they weighed two-thirds less. Chemical giant, DuPont, among others, played a part in the fact that the car never went into production.
Recently, the Eco Elise, produced by Lotus, is built with hemp, “eco wool,” sisal and a new high-tech, water-based paint. These limit the amount of energy used during production and slashes 70 pounds from the standard weight of an Elise.
Today, hemp is used in making plastic shower curtain liners, CD and DVD cases, and all other sorts of products.
Along with the hemp used to create plastic panels, Ford planned to use hemp gasoline in his hemp car. Though we think current attempts to produce ethanol and biodiesel fuels are current and new science, Ford had already researched the fuel and worked on producing a hemp fuel for his hemp-bodied prototype car. Unfortunately, alcohol prohibition, joined with pressure from plastic companies, prevented Ford’s production and fueling of his plant-based automobile.
Proponents of hemp energy claim that it is possible to produce all our fuel and other energy needs from hemp. As the comparison of hemp growth to other plants, hemp is better in all ways. One acre of hemp can produce 1000 gallons of methanol in a single season. Further, the CO2 released would be the same CO2 taken in by the plant from the environment, creating a closed carbon cycle. This would slow down the effects of global warming.
A clean-burning, energy efficient form of gasoline, with less cost to the consumer, can be produced by using hemp. Ethanol is already added to gasoline to increase octane levels. Henry Ford believed that all cars would eventually run entirely on ethanol.
Hemp can also be converted directly to produce gasoline, without the harmful emissions found in gasoline. Though it would produce carbon dioxide, it would be absorbed by the plants, and not increase the levels of COA2 in the air.
Both hemp stalks and hemp seeds can be used to make liquid fuels chemically identical to petroleum-based gasoline or diesel. Because the United states is against hemp cultivation, this potential fuel remains untapped.
Hemp has some surprising characteristics that assist the earth. The rapid growing plant chokes out other weeds and has a strong resistance to most pests. Because of this, it can be grown without pesticides with other legume crops. It matures in 8-12 weeks, like the legumes, and helps fulfill the nitrogen requirements of legumes.
Hemp has a long tap root, making it able to reach deep water other plants are unable to reach. It binds and aerates the soil where other plants can’t. It can be used to reclaim land in areas prone to drought or flooding. Enthusiastic proponents of hemp suggest it could help resolve the challenges of the Sahara Desert.
In the late 1990s, Ukrainians tested industrial hemp at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to attempt to heal the soil. In a process, called phytoremediation, plants beneficial to reduce soil contamination were used. Hemp has been used, along with sunflowers, to clean the soil. Hemp has been used on a wide scale to decontaminate some of Europe’s most polluted soils, caused by steel manufacturing plants.
Because of anti-hemp laws, Fukushima residents have planted millions of sunflowers, field mustard, and amaranth trying to clear the toxins from their soil. Other tests prove that hemp absorbs such toxic chemicals as cadmium, zinc, nickel, copper, and other heavy metals.
For now, since the machinery used to harvest and process hemp crops has been left almost unchanged, new machinery will need to be designed and implemented while current machinery is converted to process hemp as easily as hay and cotton are processed.
Hemp seeds and hemp oil are used to produce non-toxic diesel fuel, paint, varnish, detergent, ink and lubricating oil. It also can be used to build homes and feed the hungry. Some believe that a famine-stricken village could clothe, house, and feed themselves from one hemp field.