Hemp building products reducing construction waste
With the number of CBD products exploding around the world, growers of hemp – the plant from which CBD oil is extracted – are looking for inventive ways to repurpose tens of thousands of acres of hemp plants grown to serve the CBD marketplace once the plants have been processed. In Europe, Hempflax, the largest grower of hemp in the European Union, has launched an effort to turn spent hemp into insulation for building projects, a move that could significantly cut down on the amount of construction waste generated by projects if the trend catches on there.
Netherlands-based HempFlax, purchased Thermo-Natur, a German natural insulation manufacturer, and renamed the company HempFlax Building Solutions. The main product being produced is called Thermo Hemp insulation, prized for its biodegradability and ability to reduce the carbon footprint of both hemp growing operations and building projects. HempFlax also produced hemp-based industrial products like plastics and fibers.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States produces around 600 million tons of construction and demolition waste, with the vast majority of it going to landfills. Contractors working with environmentally conscious waste management companies can direct some of the construction waste they generate to recycling centers, but insulation has never been one of those products. By using a separate roll-off dumpster for recyclable materials, a waste management firm will process different types of waste appropriately, whether it be to recycle, salvage, or repurpose items rather than throw them away.
In the United States, builders are also seeing growing demand for “hempcrete” – a hemp-based product that can act as a replacement for drywall, insulation and siding. The use of industrial hemp for building projects was legalized in a 2018 farm bill in the United States, though hemp has been used for a broad array of projects in Europe for more than 30 years. Aside from keeping construction waste out of landfills, advocates say that products like hempcrete are actually carbon-negative because 2.5 acres of hemp can absorb more than 22 tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide and hempcrete walls are believed to encapsulate greenhouse gases as they cure.