Hemp has had an interesting journey in US markets within the last decade. From adamant federal prohibition to the passage of the landmark 2018 Farm Bill, the hemp industry has certainly seen a lot of change. In 2019, the cannabidiol (CBD)/hemp market grossed over $1 billion in sales, with consumer demand at an all time high. And the going gets better–sales could increase to $10.3 billion by 2024. Needless to say, business is booming and hemp-based products are here to stay, which leaves us with a critical question–how environmentally friendly is CBD/hemp production on an industrial level?
First and foremost, it is important to note that hemp is an organic fiber, not synthetic. Another huge plus right out of the gate is the fact that hemp is reusable, recyclable, and biodegradable, making it ideal as a raw material for the production of textiles, building materials, and more. As a matter of fact, hemp has a potential use for a staggering 25,000 products across nine individual markets.
In general, a major consequence of large-scale production is environmental degradation, which can be caused in a number of ways: issues like soil exhaustion and increased pesticide use are prime examples. Fortunately, a recent study has found hemp to be environmentally friendly in comparison to other organic fibers like cotton. For one, hemp is a robust plant and requires less input to achieve greater yields, making it suitable for a range of climates. Another benefit is the hemp plant’s ability to pull significant levels of heavy metals out of the soil, a process known as bioremediation.
Thus, hemp may be a highly viable replacement for some of the more environmentally intensive raw materials used in products today. In addition to being less harmful to the environment, hemp is much easier to grow and has the potential to achieve consistently high yields without wearing down the soil as certain crop rotation methods have proven. Although it is too early to tell, hemp’s future does indeed look bright. And we have yet to further explore the untapped potential of this incredible plant.
- Johnson R. “Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity.” Available at:
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32725.pdf Accessed February 28, 2020.
- Venturi, G. Hemp as a raw material for industrial applications. Euphytica. 2004;140:1-7.