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Hemp: Twice as Effective as Trees at Locking up CO2

In all the debates on how to curb climate change, hemp is hardly mentioned. Better known as cannabis, modern varieties of hemp are too weak to use as narcotics, but they are extremely efficient at absorbing and locking up carbon.

Hemp plants

It's already being used as sustainable building blocks (Hempcrete) and researchers at Bemp Research Corp. have developed a lithium-sulfur battery that is more cost-effective, has a higher performance and is more recyclable than lithium-ion batteries thanks to a helpful material: hemp.

Hemp is definitely having a bit of a moment - that's likely to grow and last. Indeed, hemp is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world and can grow 4 metres high in 100 days. Research suggests hemp is twice as effective as trees at absorbing and locking up carbon, with 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of hemp reckoned to absorb 8 to 22 tonnes of CO2 a year, more than any woodland.

Better yet, the CO2 is also permanently fixed in the hemp fibres, which can go on to be used for many commodities including textiles, medicines, insulation for buildings and concrete; BMW is even using it to replace plastics in various car parts.

Whilst the US recently declassified hemp for certain uses, the UK still classifies industrial hemp as a controlled drug, and growing the plant needs a Home Office licence. Cultivation in Britain is only about 800 hectares but work at the University of York and Biorenewables Development Centre aims to increase this to 80,000 hectares and make hemp a leading UK crop.

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