How the Carbon Capture of Hemp Can Help Reduce Emissions
Carbon emissions reached all-time highs before the COVID-19 pandemic. With such unprecedented rates of emission, we are constantly measuring how to reduce our output.
Around the world, governments incentivize manufacturing businesses to reduce carbon emissions in newer products. Cars, for example, are increasingly regulated. But other businesses exist on the other end of the spectrum—such as the hemp industry. Hemp cultivation produces net negative carbon emissions. That means that the hemp industry actively contributes to the solution to carbon emissions.
So, exactly how much carbon does hemp capture? What about the other carbon-capturing practices and businesses?
Environmental Impact: Hemp vs. Other Ways of Capturing CO2
Many studies already exist on the carbon capture of hemp. They differ in their conclusions, but not by a significant margin.
According to the European Industrial Hemp Association, one hectare of industrial hemp absorbs up to 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Another study by Hemp Tech Global found that one acre of industrial hemp absorbs 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide in just 3 to 4 months of growth.
These levels of carbon capture are significant. When compared to other crops, and plants overall, hemp has exceptional carbon absorption. However, it’s not normally the first plant that comes to mind when you talk about carbon reduction.
Most people think of trees as the first line of defence against excessive carbon emissions. Indeed, trees are undisputedly the most abundant, and one of the most efficient, tools that we have. However, as an active measure, we simply cannot rely on them alone. Unfortunately, that is even more true given the fact that we are still in the midst of a deforestation crisis. In the past 50 years alone, we’ve deforested 17% of the Amazon rainforest.
Hemp vs. Trees
While the comparison might sound silly at first, hemp fields can actually be more effective than forests at capturing carbon.
According to Cambridge University research, planting hemp is more effective than planting trees. Whereas forests capture between 2 and 6 tonnes per hectare per year, hemp captures 8 to 15.
Carbon Emission Reduction After Cultivation
In addition to carbon absorption, hemp contributes to fighting carbon emissions after its cultivation.
Hemp is one of the best converters of carbon dioxide to biomass. That’s because it can be used for carbon-negative bioplastics. Hemp is a great substitute for synthetic polymers like polyethylene, which are used in most manufactured plastics. Hemp-based plastics are carbon-neutral when it comes to production, and then completely biodegradable.
There are even more products that hemp can be used for at a reduced rate of carbon emissions. It can replace materials used in construction, clothing manufacturing, and ropes.
The Natural Solution
Hemp is an easy and natural solution to a lot of our current excessive carbon emissions, offering immense versatility. It’s also been used for most of human agricultural history and only stopped being used by many countries in the 20th century.
While hemp has many uses, it also provides an alternative to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels like petrol contribute enormously to the excessive carbon emissions produced during the last 50 years. Hemp biofuel, on the other hand, is less polluting and is one of the most widely available fossil fuel substitutes.
Hemp can also help reduce CO2 emissions through biosequestration, which is a process that involves slowly smouldering cultivated hemp crops. After using it to produce tar, it is returned to the soil rather than being released into the air.
These hemp solutions might become more incentivized going forward. For hemp farmers, the opportunity to cash in on carbon credits is an added incentive. So far, this idea has primarily been explored by blockchain startups. But governments have also started awarding carbon credits for hemp farmers who meet their criteria.
Key tech start-ups operating in this space
Several hemp startups are taking the opportunity to capitalize on the crop’s potential.
Hempitecture is a US startup for environmentally-friendly architecture. The startup addresses environmental concerns that current construction practices are aggravating. They are working to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry through environmentally friendly hemp construction products.
Hemp can be used in the production of insulators and building blocks, removing the need for polluting materials. Hempitecture produces those materials for companies in the construction industry. They use a mineral-based binder to bond the hemp core through either cast-in-place or a spray. The result is lower carbon emissions in construction.
eHempHouse specializes in converting cultivated hemp into an environmentally friendly fuel. Hemp is already a carbon-negative plant. So, the process reduces CO2 emissions by both carbon capture and replacing processes that emit more carbon. In addition, the company converts hemp into products in the health, cosmetic, and textile industries.
Mirreco is an Australian startup that provides hemp solutions for:
- Green plastics
The startup seeks to maximize carbon capture in the industries where hemp can be applied. For example, the plastics and cosmetics industries normally require fossil fuels in their production. Then, plastics don’t easily degrade. Mirreco solves these issues with non-synthetic, hemp-based polymers.
Can Hemp Solve the Carbon Emissions Crisis?
On its own, no single solution can solve such a complex problem. However, hemp is such a versatile crop that it can be applied across several industries and reduce carbon emissions in a wide variety of ways.
Hemp cultivation is now being slowly legalized around the world. It is providing use in carbon capture while replacing emission-producing materials and processes. In addition, more research is underway and many new startups are leading the way in finding new, green applications.