The benefits of using hemp in the construction and textile industries

By Natán Ponieman and Javier Hasse via El Planteo.

Since the process of cannabis legalization began to gain momentum globally, much has been said about its medicinal and therapeutic potential, as well as the huge market that awaits behind the gates of cannabis regulation. adult use.

However, the cannabis plant has even greater potential, of which today we only see the tip of the iceberg. Hemp is a subspecies of the cannabis plant; it lacks most of the psychoactive effects of marijuana but can be used as a raw material for several industries – such as textiles and construction.

In fact, industrial sales are expected to triple over the next 7 years, from $4.71 billion in 2019 to $15.26 billion in 2027.

Reduce carbon footprint

Steve DeAngelo, one of the most recognized cannabis activists of decades, says hemp has the ability to replace virtually any petroleum product.

“Hemp can be grown without pesticides. Captures 22 tonnes of atmospheric carbon per hectare. It is a powerful phytoremediator that extracts industrial poisons from contaminated soils. And, likewise, it is a powerful tool for controlling erosion and remediating unproductive or marginally productive land,” says DeAngelo. “We are only now harnessing the potential of the industrial hemp plant as a rotational crop with regenerative agriculture qualities.”

The textile industry

Hemp fabric has been around for a long time, from the canvases of Rembrandt to the sails of the caravels of Christopher Columbus. From now on, the textile industry is strongly affected by the disruption of hemp, in particular as a replacement for cotton.

The material can be treated to be lightweight, soft, breathable and durable, replacing most cotton applications in the textile industry. Considering that cotton accounts for 43% of all fibers used for clothing and textiles worldwide, hemp has enormous possibilities ahead of it.

For example, iconic jeans company Levi’s recently announced a pilot project to replace 27% of the cotton in its denim with hemp, as part of an overall sustainability initiative. Why? Cotton requires a lot more water, pesticides and soil to grow than hemp.

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Cotton is estimated to account for 10% of pesticide use and 25% of insecticide use worldwide, while hemp, due to its resilience, requires very few chemicals to grow. To be precise, one hectare of hemp can produce three times more clothes than one hectare of cotton. This is because the fibers for industrial use are extracted from the stem of the hemp plant, which is thin and grows tall, allowing growers to have around 15 plants per square meter.

Many luxury hotel chains have also joined the hemp frenzy, and hemp-based fashion brands have partnered with influencers like Bella Thorne to further spread their vision.

Patagonia, the premium mountain clothing brand, has also launched a line of hemp clothing as part of its sustainability efforts.

Construction and plastics

Hempcrete, concrete made from hemp and lime, is lighter and more resistant to fire, mold and moisture than ordinary concrete. “It can be made as strong as ordinary concrete and capture atmospheric carbon as it dries,” adds DeAngelo. In addition, it can be used without a structural purpose, as thermal and acoustic insulation.

Hemp is not only useful, but also strong. “Its fibers are stronger than steel,” says Bruce Linton, co-founder and former CEO of Canadian cannabis giant Canopy. The executive recently created Collective Growth, a “blank check company” that raised $150 million in less than two months and debuted on the Nasdaq in May with the aim of building a global industrial company. hempire.

BMW also uses hemp plastics in several of its electric car models, including the i3 and i8, but they are not pioneers: in 1941, Henry Ford presented a car model whose body was entirely constructed from bioplastic. hemp and ran on cannabis biofuel.

Hemp bioplastic has endless uses including bags, boxes and unlike synthetic plastics it is produced from renewable and biodegradable materials. Packaging industry giants such as Sonoco Products, Constantia Flexibles, O. Berk, Klöckner Pentaplast and MG America have already declared their interest in the material.

Biofuel

In the 1930s, Ford had an entire facility to extract biodiesel from hemp biomass. The reason? Biofuel made from pressed hemp seeds can be used in any conventional diesel engine. Using this method, hemp can produce about 780 liters of oil per hectare, which is about 4 times more than soy.

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Additionally, leftover hemp biomass can be used to produce ethanol, a key alcohol in the creation of biofuels, which is traditionally extracted from corn or sugar cane. A 2010 study from the University of Connecticut showed that hemp oil has a 97% conversion rate to diesel.

Although it takes about 50% more biofuel to generate the same energy produced by oil, hemp fuel is a renewable alternative and does not harm the environment. Thus, with the development of a large-scale production chain, the production costs of hemp-based biofuels will certainly exceed those of petroleum. However, the availability of the latter inevitably tends to be scarce.

El Planteo is an online media focused on cannabis, hemp, psychedelics, ecology and other green topics, with a frequent financial and cultural angle. In ElPlanteo.com you will find all the key news regarding the cannabis industry in Latin America and around the world, the advances in legalization policies and the cultural events that make up the world of marijuana and other emerging industries.