Similar to the way ancient cultures added straw to clay to reinforce bricks, hemp fibres added to concrete increase tensile strength, as well as reducing shrinkage and cracking. It can also be mixed with gypsum to produce light panels, or lime to make plaster. A combination mixture can be used for foundations, walls and ceilings, which is lighter than cement and has better sound and heat insulating properties. There has even been a ceramic tile equivalent produced. The quality of building materials is such that whole houses have been made based on hemp fibre.
The actual building structure is not the only thing that can benefit from hemp's insulating properties. The production of thermal insulation products is one of the most important sectors of the hemp industry. Hemp hurds are perfect to use due to their high silica content, and can be mixed with lime to produce a material which can be blown into areas requiring insulation. Since it is naturally renewable, it is better for the environment and can help to reduce heating costs for existing households.
Hemp is a major competitor to the cotton industry. It produces 250% more fibres than cotton and doesn't require the same cocktail of chemicals cotton needs to grow successfully. It is said that around half of the world's pesticides are used on cotton crops. Hemp is also far stronger, durable, absorbent, insulative and resistant to UV light and mold than cotton. Although it is generally coarse, advancements in processing have enabled a softening of hemp fibres to a comfortable level. Apart from clothing, hemp can also be used to produce coarse textiles such as upholstery and carpets.
Hemp can produce more than four times the dry weight of fibre in comparison to the average forest on the same size land. Additionally, trees will take approximately twenty years to regrow, where hemp can reach maturity in around four months. Apart from being far more practical to produce paper in terms of growth times and production levels, hemp paper is of a far superior quality to tree paper. Wood pulp paper may be lucky to last 50 years, whereas hemp pulp paper has been known to last centuries or even millennia. It can also be recycled many more times than traditional paper.
Hemp hurds make exceptionally good animal bedding, which can be used for horses, cats and other pets. They do not produce dust, are easily composted and can absorb up to five times their weight in moisture. They are a great alternative bedding for horses, which are sometimes allergic to straw. Hemps seeds are also used as animal feed. Due to their cost, they are generally not considered for livestock feed, but are excellent for small animals such as birds and poultry.
Personal Care Products
Hempseed oil has a wide variety of uses, especially in the personal care product range. It is widely used in creams as a moisturising agent and is excellent for skin care. It is also present in a number of leading brand's lotions, moisturisers, lip balms and perfumes. Bathroom products containing hemp are also popular, with soaps, shampoos and bubble baths being sold having a hemp component.
Today, many car parts are manufactured using hemp products. Their history dates back to 1941, where Henry Ford produced a car with a plastic body which was made from approximately 70% hemp fibres. Although the idea came about partly due to a steel shortage, tremendous benefits were revealed. The car could withstand blows ten times greater than steel without denting. It was so powerful that Ford used to swing an axe at the vehicle to show it would not be damaged. Unfortunately, the Marijuana Tax Act made production unviable and although some car parts are produced today, the full potential of hemp cars has never been realised.