Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. The bast fibres can be used to make textiles that are 100% hemp, but they are commonly blended with other fibres, such as flax, cotton or silk, as well as virgin and recycled polyester, to make woven fabrics for apparel and furnishings. The inner two fibres of the plant are woodier and typically have industrial applications, such as mulch, animal bedding, and litter. When oxidized (often erroneously referred to as "drying"), hemp oil from the seeds becomes solid and can be used in the manufacture of oil-based paints, in creams as a moisturizing agent, for cooking, and in plastics. Hemp seeds have been used in bird feed mix as well. A survey in 2003 showed that more than 95% of hemp seed sold in the European Union was used in animal and bird feed. Hemp seeds are high in complete protein and are also a great source of iron. They can be eaten raw, ground into hemp meal, sprouted or made into dried sprout powder. Hemp seeds can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk and tisanes. Hemp oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids. The leaves of the hemp plant, while not as nutritional as the seeds, are edible and can be consumed raw as leafy vegetables in salads, and pressed to make juice. In the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand, India, hemp seeds are ground with lemon juice and Himalayan salt into a paste. Water is then added to make 'Bhang Chutney'. This dip has been served since ancient times as a side dish with several meals. In 2011, the US imported $11.5 million worth of hemp products, mostly driven by growth in the demand for hemp seed and hemp oil for use as ingredients in foods such as granola. In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs treats hemp as a purely non-food crop, but with proper licensing and proof of less than 0.2% THC concentration, hemp seeds can be imported for sowing or for sale as a food or food ingredient. In the US, hemp can be used legally in food products and, as of 2000, was typically sold in health food stores or through mail order. Hemp fibre has been used extensively throughout history, with production climaxing soon after being introduced to the New World. For centuries, items ranging from rope, to fabrics, to industrial materials were made from hemp fibre. Hemp was also commonly used to make sail canvas. The word "canvas" is derived from the word cannabis. Pure hemp has a texture similar to linen. Because of its versatility for use in a variety of products, today hemp is used in a number of consumer goods, including clothing, shoes, accessories, dog collars, and home wares. For clothing, in some instances, hemp is mixed with lyocell. Hemp as a building construction material provides solutions to a variety of issues facing current building standards. Its light-weightiness, mould resistance, breathability, etc. makes hemp products versatile in a multitude of uses. Following the co-heating tests of NNFCC Renewable House at the Building Research Establishment (BRE), hemp is reported to be a more sustainable material of construction in comparison to most building methods used today. In addition, its practical use in building construction could result in a reduction of energy consumption costs and the creation of secondary pollutants. The hemp market was at its largest during the 17th century. Afterwards, in the 19th century and onwards, the market saw a decline during its rapid illegalization in many countries. Hemp has recently resurfaced in green building construction, roughly 25 years ago in Europe. The modern-day disputes regarding the legality of hemp lead to its main disadvantages; importing and regulating costs. Final Report on the Construction of the Hemp Houses at Haverhill, UK conducts that hemp construction exceeds the cost of traditional building materials by £48per square meter. Currently, the University of Bath researches the use of hemp-lime panel systems for construction. Funded by the European Union, the research tests panel design within their use in high quality construction, on site assembly, humidity and moisture penetration, temperature change, daily performance and energy saving documentations. The program, focusing on Britain, France, and Spain markets aims to perfect protocols of use and application, manufacturing, data gathering, certification for market use, as well as warranty and insurance. Hemp-based bioplastic is a biodegradable alternative to regular plastic and can potentially replace PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), a material used for plumbing pipes. Hemp bioplastics advantages • Biodegradable • Renewable resource • Strong • Thermal stability • UV stability • Lightweight • Versatile • Ease of manufacturing – can be produced with standard plastic injection and 3D printers. Annual production of plastic topped 311 million tonnes in 2014. This and the many plastic items created before that year will be with us for a long time to come. Most fossil fuel-based plastics don’t biodegrade as such, but just break down into smaller pieces. Plastic trash is becoming increasingly prevalent in our oceans, where it’s ingested by birds and marine life. This can lead to digestive system blockages resulting in starvation, or poisoning through the toxins in the plastic. It’s estimated around 150 million tonnes of plastic waste is in the ocean today – and this figure could reach 850-950 million metric tonnes by 2050. A remote South Pacific island has highest density of plastic rubbish in the world – and yet is not near any shipping lanes and has a permanent population of zero. The garbage is drifting in from elsewhere. While prevention is better than cure, i.e. effective waste management, wider use of hemp plastics could help address some of these issues. There’s also the energy and carbon aspect to consider. In addition to the carbon savings associated with growing hemp in comparison to extracting fossil fuels, producing hemp plastic also apparently requires up to 45% less energy than fossil fuel-based based plastic products. The cost of hemp bioplastics is still more than fossil-fuel based counterparts for now. As more industrial hemp is grown, its benefits more widely embraced, climate change factors start playing a greater role in material choices and associated technologies evolve; the economics of industrial hemp based plastic will only get better – and that will be good for the planet.
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