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It’s Super Fibre: Five high-tech uses for hemp

lotus-eco-eliseStop snickering already: hemp is proving to be a sustainable, low-carbon Super Fibre that could help the UK and Europe dramatically reduce their carbon footprints in numerous ways.

How many ways? We review five of the coolest here:

Car Parts

Norfolk-based Lotus Cars uses locally farmed hemp, among other sustainable materials, in the body panels and trim of its Eco Elise vehicle. The car also features a hemp hard top equipped with solar panels that provide power to the electrical systems.


Green Houses

Working with a consortium led by the University of Bath’s BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, researchers are working to develop the use of hemp-lime construction materials in the UK.

The hemp plant stores carbon during its growth and this, combined with the low carbon footprint of lime and its very efficient insulating properties, gives the material a “better-than-zero carbon” footprint, according to researchers.

Lightweight, Insulating Concrete

hemp-balesIn France, hemp is being used to make lightweight concrete that also has excellent insulating properties.

Fibres from the co-operative company Chanvrière de l’Aube are used for making insulating panels and lightweight concrete. In fact, the co-operative has developed breeze-blocks containing hemp.

Chanvrière de l’Aube is a group of slightly more than 300 hemp farmers in eastern France who process the production from 6,000 hectares of hemp. Industrial hemp has traditionally been grown in France for the paper industry.

Children’s Toys

hemp-nativityResearchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have developed a “liquid wood” made with lignin and flax that could offer a non-petroleum-based alternative material for children’s toys.

In fact, they have optimised the plastic in such a way that it is even suitable for products such as Nativity figurines (right), which were produced in cooperation with Schleich GmbH.

Biodegradable Cigarettes


A while back, two students at Northumbria University came up with the idea of biodegradable “eco-cigarettes” made of paper from recycled hemp.

Regular cigarettes take up to 12 years to biodegrade.

The hemp-based, quicker-degrading cigarette was developed by Lisa Hanking and Lucy Denham, who won joint first prize for their idea in a 2004 sustainability project organised by Northumbria’s School of Design and Chester-le-Street District Council.

1 Comment

  • Mike Roberts
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 6:41 am

    Delighted to see the profile given to hemp; unfortunately the article understates the position of hemp in the UK market.The UK’s largest hemp processing business, Hemcore, has just been bought by Lime Technology, who are one of the partners behind Hemcrete. This carbon negative building material is proven in the UK (the photo shown was of The Renewable House recently completed at the Building Research Establishment near Watford) and has been used in many houses, as well as passive temperature controlled warehouses for Adnams and The Wine Society and a new building for the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth.Lime Technology are focussed on taking Hemcrete into the mainstream and are also likely to significantly expand other areas of hemp usage in the UK with major investment in the next 6-12 months.There is little new in this, as hemp has hundreds of legitimate uses which mankind have valued hugely over the centuries.

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