After the 2018 Farm Bill in the USA decriminalized hemp (a cousin to marijuana), this hard-working plant is enjoying a heyday.
For millennia, hemp fibers have been used to make rope, paper, textiles, shoes, construction materials, and other products. Today, the many benefits of hemp are expanding.
It is being processed into a biodegradable alternative to plastic. In the right environment, hemp plastic takes around 3 to 6 months to decompose. This is astonishing in comparison to conventional plastics, reports NewsGreen. Hemp-based plastics can also be recycled indefinitely. While petroleum-based plastic can be recycled, because this type of plastic is chemical-laden, it is a toxic process.
Hemp is an excellent source of plant protein for humans and animals. Five benefits associated with hemp products include low or reduced allergens, it’s suitable for vegans, vegetarians, it’s gluten-free and can be grown organically, says The Conversation. So it has the potential to be a cost-effective product bringing both health and environmental benefits.
They are six times more efficient than cotton when it comes to water usage, as researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy have discovered. In addition, three times more hemp than cotton can be grown in the same area, and their carbon dioxide emissions are similar, when the entire production process is considered, reports NatGeo.
According to a study in Science Direct, hemp is twice as effective as trees at absorbing and locking up carbon.
Hemp can also be used an ecologically friendly version of concrete. It's called Hempcrete and is a mix of hemp fibers, water, and lime or clay, which acts as a binder. Despite the simplicity of those natural ingredients, hempcrete has a remarkable array of benefits: it's fire resistant, provides soundproofing, insulates or stores heat (depending on external temperatures), repels mold and pests, and is malleable enough to allow for various aesthetic styles. Hempcrete can be made into building blocks or sprayed into place.
Add all these benefits together, and it's hardly surprising that a recent study in Scotland determined that these climate benefits could translate into significant market potential for hemp products.