By Emily Ledger
Given the explosion of CBD popularity, you would be forgiven for thinking that UK Hemp farmers are now driving around in new Ferraris and holidaying in the Caribbean. However, the UK Hemp industry is still widely seen as being “not financially viable”. This is because farmers are only allowed to harvest the seeds and the fibre of the low-THC cannabis plant.
The seeds are often used to make Hemp oil and other health and beauty items, while the fibres can be used in construction and fabrics. However, the high-CBD flowers and leaves are often wasted. In fact, most of the material currently used to produce CBD products, sold in the UK, are sourced from outside of the UK.
Aside from the financial revenue that could be gained through the expansion of the crops in the UK, there are also huge environmental benefits of Hemp.
It consumes CO2
One of the most environmentally impressive benefits of hemp is its ability to absorb Carbon-Dioxide, one of the key causes of Climate Change. It can absorb up to 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. This makes it one of the fastest natural CO2-to-biomass conversion tools. Annually, hemp absorbs more of the compound per hectare than any other crop or commercial forestry.
It can decrease deforestation
For thousands of years, hemp was used as a material to make paper. This has decreased with the scale of the hemp industry and been increasingly replaced by timber. Increasing the size of the hemp industry around the world, would decrease the number of trees cut down to be used in the paper industry.
Hemp paper remained popular until the mid-19th Century when paper made from timber became increasingly common.
It is recyclable
Yes, timber-sourced paper is recyclable, too. But, paper made from hemp fibre can be recycled more than twice as many times as its tree-sourced counterpart. Hemp fibre is also a great insulator, meaning it could replace fibre glass (a non-recyclable product).
Hemp fibre can also be made into bioplastics which are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than synthetic plastics.
It can improve soil quality
Hemp can grow almost anywhere, even in poor quality soil. Not only this, but it’s interlocking roots are great for preventing soil erosion, and its leaves for locking in Nitrogen. The crop has natural defenses against pests, and its denseness almost eradicates the growth of weeds. This eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides which can damage the soil.
The crop has also been found to absorb toxic materials from the soil, locking them in the plants’ roots. Hemp plants were even planted to help to clean up the nuclear spill at Chernobyl!
It can be converted to fuel
The majority of fuel in the UK is imported from other countries. However, with the general population becoming more interested in more sustainable fuel options, biofuels may gain more attention. If our energy supply was to diversify, with the possibility of including hemp fuel, it would decrease fuel import costs.
Hemp has been used by humans for thousands of years – mainly for making clothing and paper. Henry VIII made a national law stating that farmers must dedicate a fraction of their farm to growing the crop. This article has only scratched the surface of the benefits of hemp expansion. It is believed that crop could have up to 50,000 end uses, so why aren’t we making the most of it?