Top 10 Uses For Hemp: A Revolutionary Plant | Part 2

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Top 10 Uses For Hemp: A Revolutionary Plant | Part 2

The uses of hemp are so many - we couldn‘t fit them into one post. Here is the continuation of the most promising applications for hemp, from fuel to paper.

Food, medicine, clothing, cosmetics, construction - the list is already impressive, but it get‘s even better. Hemp truly holds the key to a sustainable and green economy, but politics and petrol industries are holding the plant hostage. We are witnessing a wave of global reform, and hopefully this wave turns into a green tsunami, propelling us into a hemp based industrial revolution.

Here is the continuation of the Top 10 Uses For Hemp:

6. Plastics

Most plastic we use today has been made from cellulose obtained from petroleum. Petroleum is made from oil, which is not only highly toxic to the environment, but we‘re also running out of it. It is possible to make plastics from plant cellulose that is both stronger than conventional plastic and 100% biodegradable. Which plant has the highest amount of cellulose? Hemp.

Hemp stalks are 85% cellulose, making them an ideal resource for the plastics industry. Not only this, but the speed and ease with which hemp can be grown, and its ability to be grown pretty much anywhere can allow it to be an abundant and renewable resource. Furthermore, as hemp plastic can be composted, it will not spend hundreds of years on landfill sites and pollute the soil.

Henry Ford, the famous carmaker and founder of Ford cars, was famously documented making a car out of hemp plastic. It was found to be 10 times stronger than its steel counterpart, cheaper and safer to make, and in Henry’s words, a car “grown from our own soil”.

Hemp prohibition has made the use of hemp for plastics financially uninteresting, as it cannot compete with the price of petrol based plastics. But as various industries are now beginning to search for more sustainable resources, and as the restraints on hemp begin to loosen, the use of hemp plastic is beginning to grow as well. The advancement of technology means that pretty much anything that can be made out of petroleum plastic can now be made from hemp plastic.

A fine example of an industry taking up the hemp plastic banner is the automotive industry, much like Henry Ford, there are many within the industry who see the benefit of a lighter, stronger, cheaper and more environmentally friendly resource. BMW, Chrysler, GM, Ford, Saturn and Honda now all use hemp plastics in their door panels, trunk lids, lead liners, bumpers etc. It is a good start, and a trend that is growing.

Hemp plastic offers endless possibilities. It is safer, greener and easier to produce, taking power out of the hands of oil barons as industries look to sever their reliance on big oil.

7. Fuel

Another revolutionary use for hemp is turning it into a bio-diesel. That’s right, hemp can be used as a renewable and green fuel that works straight away in most diesel engines – to the point where it is a viable alternative to petroleum based diesel. Why do we not see more hemp bio-diesel around? Simply because big oil doesn’t want you to know that, and they have enough resources to keep the information suppressed.

It is not a well-known fact, but Henry ford of the Ford Motor Company, and Rudolf Diesel, the creator of the diesel engine, never envisioned cars running on today’s petroleum based fuels. They designed their respective motor components to run on bio-diesel, and assumed that hemp would be the future fuel. Rudolf Diesel actually ran one of the very first diesel engines on peanut oil.

Henry Ford was so adamant that hemp and fermented vegetables were the future of fuel, he told reporters at the New York Times "There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There's enough alcohol in one year's yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years". Many believe that it was visions like this that were the reasons cannabis and hemp were put under prohibition in the first place, due to politicians with a lot of money in big oil campaigning against hemp, such as Andrew Mellon, the US Secretary of the Treasury and founder of Gulf Oil.

There are many advantages that could be gained form a large scale shift to hemp fuels. The following are but a few.

Self-reliance

Hemp is easy to grow and is extremely resilient, allowing it to be grown just about anywhere. This means countries the world over can grow their own supplies for refinement, without having to rely on international big oil – something that can have a huge impact on economies.

You can make it at home

Although it is somewhat of a complicated process, anyone determined enough can produce hemp based bio-diesel at home without having studied chemistry, or acquiring expensive lab equipment.

No shortages

Somewhat tying in with self-reliance, the ease with which hemp can be grown and turned into fuel could result in no country ever having to worry about fuel shortages again.

Non-toxic

Unlike fossil fuel based diesel, hemp bio-diesel is non-toxic (we wouldn’t recommend drinking it though!). Also, burning hemp based bio-diesel does not produce the sulphur-dioxide or hydrocarbons produced by burning normal fuels; it also produces a significantly smaller amount of carbon-monoxide.

It‘s Minimal environmental impact

The large scale production of hemp based bio-diesel has a significantly smaller environmental impact than the process of producing oil based fuels. Hemp could potentially be a carbon-neutral fuel, or at least close to it. That is because during growth, the plant absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, and that same CO2 is released again when the fuel is burnt - releasing the same amount back into the atmosphere.

Biodegradable

Hemp based bio-diesel is biodegradable, this means that accidents and oil spills will not cause the same level of environmental damage that current oil does.

Extends the life of machinery

This is what the diesel engine was originally designed to use! Using a hemp based bio-fuel can dramatically increase the life of an engine. Most diesel engines now-a-days can still be run on bio-fuel with little effort. The rule of thumb is that diesel engines made between 1990 and 2004 can run fine without any major conversion. All that will be required is a filter change before use.

It is worth noting that whilst this can apply to the majority of diesel engines, it does not apply to all, and whether it works in more modern cars needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. Before filling your tank with a home brewed hemp fuel, seek advice from a professional and do some research before making the switch – no matter when your engine was made, (we are not professional scientists, chemists or engineers, and we can take no responsibility if you decide to make the switch, but find it does not work).

8. Bioremediation (cleaning up mankind’s mess)

There has been recent research into the use of hemp as a way of cleaning up contaminated soil. Hemp is a very resilient plant and can grow in the harshest of places, even those where all other life has been killed off by our doing.

The process is known as phytoremediation, it is the use of plants to restore damaged environments. Plants accumulate certain heavy metals and contaminants in their biomass, taking them out of the soil and making it safe and viable again for other life. Although hemp is not considered a hyper-accumulator (a plant that stores the contaminants throughout its mass), hemp does take up a significant amount of contaminants which are then stored in the roots. This offers a certain advantage over hyper-accumulators as the lack of heavy metals being stored in the main body of the plant allow it to be harvested for other industrial pursuits, such as paper making or conversion into a biofuel; whilst the contaminated roots can be safely disposed of.

9. Paper

Hemp is a viable alternative to wood based paper. It is thought that until 1883, up to 90% of the world’s paper was made of hemp! It is because of prohibition we do not see much hemp paper in today’s society, and some even believe, that this use, in conjunction with the threat hemp posed to big oil, led to its prohibition. DuPont, a massive timber owner at the time of prohibition was at the forefront of funding the fight against cannabis and hemp in conjunction with Andrew Mellon, the founder of Gulf Oil– due to the threat it was to his industry.

Analysis has found hemp paper to be superior to wood based paper due to its composition. Hemp paper is high in cellulose and only contains 4-10% lignin. Conversely, wood pulp contains 18-30% lignin, which needs to be chemically removed in the paper making process. The fact that hemp requires less chemical treatment reduces wastewater contamination, and the natural creamy colour of hemp paper means it does not need extensive bleaching – two aspects that are much better for the environment.

Hemp paper is also a lot stronger than wood based paper, and stands the test of time for much longer – sometimes by hundreds of years (hemp paper as old as 1500 years has been found intact). Furthermore, hemp paper can be recycled many more times over than wood based paper.

There are arguments that there would have to be mass deforestation to accommodate the space required for hemp to meet the world’s paper needs. This argument is somewhat countered by the fact that 1 acre of hemp can produce the paper of 4-10 acres of woodland over a 20 year cycle, (it is worth noting that hemp stalks take 4 months to mature, whereas trees take 20-80 years).

Hemp would be more demanding on the soil, as it is an annual plant. This means nutrients would have to be externally added - but this could be harmoniously achieved with a cyclical compost system and elaborate crop rotation.

10. Animal feed

The high nutrition of hemp does not only benefit humans, it can be of great benefit to livestock and other animals.

Hemp seed is often used in wild bird seed mix. It is favoured by many species for its energy giving qualities and rich oils, as it is a great boon in helping them get through the winter and maintain healthy feathers. When a bird adds hempseed to its diet, it lives 10-20% longer, has more offspring, and can fly longer due to the superior quality of its feathers.

Prior to prohibition, to here were over 10 million acres of hemp growing in the US, and these seed laden plants were feeding hundreds of millions of birds. The eradication of hemp dealt a devastating blow to bird populations, and conversely has affected the food chain. In addition, birds who would have fed on hemp now eat pesticide laden GM crops, introducing toxins that further hurt the food chain and environment. This fundamental change, though already many years old now, has initiated the gradual decline in bird populations as a whole.

When it comes to feeding livestock and domesticated animals, there used to be no better than hempseed cake. Hempseed cake is the by-product of pressing hempseeds for oil. It is still highly nutritious and was the principal animal feed in many places across the world up until the last century. Hempseed cake covers the complete dietary needs for pretty much all animals, including cats, dogs, horses, farm animals and poultry. It also allows for maximum weight gain at a cost less than current feed being used. A recent study in Kentucky found that cattle fed on hempseed cake required less feeding and digested much more efficiently.

There you have it. This is just scratching the surface of what can be done with hemp, but it becomes painfully evident how profoundly insane cannabis prohibition is. It is nothing short of madness, not to use this resource. There is, however, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Hemp is central to solving our planet‘s resource scarcity, and with changes in drug policy, we might well witness a renaissance of industrial hemp. If you are interested in reading more about the power of hemp, and how it can change the world, we strongly recommend the book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer - a paragon and legend of the cannabis and hemp movement.