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Greenlife Organics

is hemp fabric biodegradable

Is Hemp Fabric Biodegradable? Learn the SECRET of Cellulose!

Do you feel sustainable clothing made from ethical fabrics is the future of clothing? I do! Hemp fabrics are becoming more popular in 2020 as people learn Hemp needs minimal water to grow, but is Hemp fabric biodegradable?

Hemp Fabric is highly biodegradable because the Hemp Plant is primarily composed of Cellulose, the building block of plants that can be broken down by microscopic organisms to return the material to the Earth. This means Hemp Fabrics completely break down and become something new in the natural cycle of materials. This is key for reducing waste as Plastics and other Synthetic Materials takes centuries to break down.

The Growing Popularity of Sustainable Clothing

We all want to leave Earth better and cleaner for our children and grandchildren.

As the world makes greater efforts to ensure that our habits leave minimal lasting impact for future generations, Hemp has become center-stage as an ecologically friendly alternative for its low-water needs and high re-usability. But what really is Hemp?

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a herbaceous plant from the specie Cannabis Sativa, where Marijuana is the male version of Cannabis with high THC levles; Hemp is the female version with low THC levels.

Hemp fibres, sourced from the stalk of the plant, can be used to make over 25,000 different practical products; making it more versatile than Marijuana which is only used for it’s medicinal properties.

How is Hemp Fabric Made?

Manufacturers use long strands of fibres from the stalk of Hemp Plant to make Hemp Fabric.

To remove Hemp Fibres from the stalk, manufacturers use a process called “retting.” Once separated from the stalk, Hemp fibres are spun together to create a long thread that can be woven into a fabric.

Cellulose makes Hemp Biodegrade Naturally

What makes Hemp Fabric biodegradable compared to plastics, polyesters and other man-made materials is that fabrics composed of Hemp fibers are primarily cellulose, the building blocks of plants that can be broken down by microscopic organisms to return the material to the earth. Cellulose is a key part of what gives all plants their strength, and so that strength translates into durable materials during use, but no connected troubles with its breakdown once it’s finished.

This means Hemp fabrics do not just break apart, they completely break down and can become something new in the natural cycle of materials. This is key for reducing waste in the long run as synthetic materials must wait for centuries to fully degrade. For example, it takes Plastics 450 years to fully degrade in our oceans, forests and wherever they find themselves! Plastics, in the meantime, fills our environment and national parks with long lasting pollution.

In fact, Plastics can break down into microscopic pieces that end up far beyond wherever it was initially dumped. Hemp needs little help to return to the soil once it’s fulfilled it’s purpose, and it’s benefits go beyond what it can offer when the product it was made for us no longer usable.

10 Examples of Non-Biodegradable Fabrics and Fibres

In 2020, we must find alternatives to polyester for the survival of our planet. Non-Biodegradable fabrics and fibres are materials which take many years to decompose and cannot be changed into manure. As a result, they pile up and harm the environment via pollution. Burning these materials is not an option because this only adds more pollution.

Explore these 10 examples of fibers that do not biodegrade:

  1. Synthetic fibres – Consist of two groups: Polyamides and Polyesters. Nylon is an example of a Polyamide and Kevlar is an example of a Polyester.
  2. Cans
  3. Petrochemical Plastic
  4. Glass
  5. Electronic Waste, or E-Waste, like televisions, computers, printers, phones and cameras.
  6. Ball point pen refills
  7. Nuclear Waste
  8. Metallic Wastes – Aluminum, cars, aerospace equipment, bicycles and bed frames.
  9. Artificial polymers – Polyethylene, PET, PVC, Kevlar, and nylon
  10. Artificial rubber – Polychloroprene, known as Neoprene

20 Facts about Hemp Fabric

Now that you have an understanding of the danger of plastics, check out these 20 facts about Hemp Fabric:

  1. Hemp Fabric is stronger than cotton – Hemp was used to make nautical ropes and sails in the 1800’s for one reason – it’s four times stronger than cotton!
  2. It was used to make textiles for 117 years – 80% of all fabrics, linens, sheets, shoes and clothing were made from Hemp from 1820 to when it was outlawed in 1937.
  3. Prevents odors – Hemp fabrics breathe extremely well, helping prevent unwanted odors.
  4. Soft to the skin – Most people will tell you Hemp clothing is comfortable and does not irritate their skin. I am a big supporter of Jungmaven Hemp socks because they are so soft!
  5. It can rain watered – Yes, Hemp needs that little of water.
  6. More environmental benefits than cotton – Hemp does not need pesticides because it naturally fights them off! Conventional cotton, on the other, consumes 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides.
  7. UV-Resistant – Clothing and fabrics made from Hemp can filter ultraviolet rays up to SPF 15. Some companies can fine-tune the fabrics to offer SPF 50, the highest sun ray protection!
  8. Hemp is Hypoallergenic – Hemp’s protein formation naturally deters bacteria, allowing it to get softer with each wash.
  9. Remains the same color – It absorbs and retains color better than cotton.
  10. Drought-resistant – Hemp can grow and flourish in only 4 months, making it drought-resistant!
  11. It’s legal – Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, Hemp is legal to grow in the United States.
  12. Not illegal to import – Some companies purchase their Hemp seeds from Canada.
  13. Gets softer with every wash – Hemp clothing is claimed by some to be itchy at first, but it gets softer with each wash without losing it’s shape.
  14. Cleans and purifies soil – Hemp absorbs impurities and heavy metals from contaminated soil.
  15. Saves and creates jobs – Hemp must be planted, grown and harvested by hand. Not only does this keep people employed, the new demand for Hemp can get more people to work!
  16. Improves soil quality – Hemp naturally fights insects and bacteria and be grown for 20 years without affecting the soil. Cotton, on the other hand, robs soil of it’s vital nutrients.
  17. Can be used to make animal feed – Hemp seeds are rich in protein, allowing farmers to feed their cattle with less!
  18. It’s compostable – Hemp fabrics will naturally decompose, you can cut them into tiny pieces and throw them into your compost heap!
  19. Can be used to make wellness products – Hemp blossoms can be pressed to extract naturally-occuring CBD, the richest source of CBD in the entire Hemp plant! We offer a full range of CBD-infused oils to bring balance to your mind and body. Click here to check them out!
  20. Adapts to cold and hot temperatures – The most interesting aspect of Hemp clothing is it’s natural ability to respond when your body is hot or cold.

Disadvantages of Hemp Fabrics You Should Know About

While there are only three, you should still know about the drawbacks of Hemp Fabrics:

  1. Hemp can have a scratchy texture at first– This usually goes away after it’s washed. The best way to prevent this is by purchasing Hemp fabrics which have been blended.
  2. It can wrinkle easily – You can avoid this by air drying your Hemp fabrics.
  3. Colors may not be as rich.

5 Biodegradable Clothing Brands to Consider

I wrote an extensive review of the best shirts made from Hemp in 2020, these are the Top 5 brands using ethical fabrics:

  1. Tentree – This incredible company plants a tree for every sale they make!
  2. Toad & Co. – 100% sustainable clothing
  3. Jungmaven – Regarded as the best Hemp clothing in the industry
  4. Hempeys – USA-made Hemp clothing
  5. Patagonia – You can expect their Hemp Collection to live up to the name

5 Tips to Care for Hemp Fabrics

Follow these rules to make sure your Hemp fabrics last:

  1. Always use cold water when washing Hemp fabrics.
  2. Avoid Chlorine bleaches.
  3. Do not wash lighter colors with darker colors, separate them.
  4. Conventional drying can cause them to shrink and wrinkle, I would recommend air drying.
  5. You can have your Hemp clothing dry cleaned.

6 Environmental Benefits of Hemp Fabrics

We learned the answer to the question, “Is Hemp Fabric Biodegradable?” Let’s explore how Hemp offers us a way to create a better tomorrow.

#1. Hemp Cleans Soil

Hemp can detoxify soil just by sitting in the Earth, and that is without human intervention!

As a plant, Hemp can be harvested annually, and it grows quickly and actually works well with other plants to offer them benefits. It helps to keep the soil healthy and by growing quickly to cover the ground it reduces the need for weed killers, and after it dies it leaves substantial nutrients behind for the next generation of crops. This means it can be used alongside food crops to produce greater yields without having to rely on harmful chemicals.

In fact, Hemp can actually help to purify soils that have been damaged by pollution or chemicals in the past, thanks to its hardy build and short lifespan! By absorbing potential pollutants into itself, it frees up the soil for plants that may be more delicate.

#2. Hemp is a Low-Maintenance Crop

Once Hemp is planted to be harvested, it requires little to care for it. As a naturally tough plant it needs little water, but it still grows very fast, far faster than other plants typically used for the same applications.

Trees used for paper can hardly keep up with an acre of Hemp. Similar to how it purifies the soil, Hemp can be used to help clean the air, with its tough body and leaves acting as a natural scrubber of the atmosphere to remove excess carbon dioxide so that everyone can breathe a little easier.

As such, it can be a critical tool for good in multiple ways to combat the growing issue of climate change around the world, just by existing as itself before it is ever harvested.

#3. Hemp is a Long Term Solution

What we want from our clothes today, however, is a bit different from what we needed then. So does hemp also hold up to our current requirements? Namely, is it truly a better long term solution in the face of clothing waste and plastic pollution the world over?

Though it may seem too good to be true, Hemp actually may prove a better alternative in almost every way. As clothing, hemp is strong and has excellent insulation properties, so it can be worn longer than plastic based clothing and keep you warmer throughout its use. And once it has been worn down, you don’t need to worry about it filling up a landfill. Hemp is broken down naturally in the span of only a few months, which is far better than the centuries plastic takes to decompose.

#4. Highly Reusable

When it comes to the harvest, Hemp can go on to become thousands of different products, and because so much can be made out of a comparatively small amount of material not as much harvesting needs to be done to meet demand. Hemp can become paper, rope, building materials, and even clothing!

In fact, hemp clothing has countless potential uses that are still being discovered. It’s durable design means that whatever kind of clothing is desired can be worn for much longer than with plastic based clothing. Thanks to this durability, hemp also offers excellent insulation for the wearer, keeping them warmer with less even in rain or considerable cold.

However it still breathes quite well, so there’s no fear of feeling compressed or stiff. Other fabrics even mix well with hemp to form hybrid materials that can possess the strengths of both, like silk or cotton, which also break down well due to their natural origins. In fact by hybridizing the fabrics less is needed to produce more clothing.

#5. Hemp Fabric can be naturally colored

What is especially incredible about hemp clothing is that the natural color of pale cream or off white makes it easier to apply different colors afterwards, making it possible to add dye for visual appeal without having to worry about the colors being off. Most natural materials come with colors that make this quite difficult, and any clothing company wanting to add color often resorts to bleaching so the fabric can be colored later. This is very harmful for the environment and fills the material with toxic chemicals that never truly leave.

Hemp however, can come out ready for any kind of color. These colors hold better thanks to hemp being resistant to mold and mildew. If someone is using the clothes in more high stress environments like areas with heavy rain or snow this can save them a considerable amount of time and money. This is also especially important due to how other kinds of long lasting fabrics are prone to rot, while hemp keeps its strength and can be worn until it is physically broken down by years of use. This helps reduce pollution as well, because simply wearing clothes for longer means less need for more, and thus less material being used to harvest it all.

#6. Endless Recycling Potential

Once a hemp garment has become too worn down to be used further, it actually has a number of options, and almost all of them have benefits of their own. Hemp is actually much easier to recycle than other clothing materials, and produces none of the toxic residue that other fabrics are known to have when they are recycled, as the materials are primarily cellulose which is harmless to humans.

In fact, there is no real limit to just how many times it can be recycled. It can go through repeatedly and come out as something new every time. A shirt, buttons, belts, pants and more are all possibilities. Should the product not find its way to a recycling center though, it can still break down and biodegrade all on its own to return naturally to the earth. All of the cellulose it is based on is hardy, but exposure to the elements will allow it to break down in the span of just a few months to leave no waste behind. This is a stark contrast to plastic based clothing, which can take centuries to degrade and is likely to just fall apart and spread before it reaches that point.

#7. Hemp can Help Humanity

Thus hemp is not only biodegradable and an excellent tool to living in a world more in tune with a balanced climate, but every step of its development can actually help humanity. Requiring so little to grow makes it an excellent crop for big businesses and small farms alike in any kind of environment, so there’s no reason for it to be isolated to one part of the world.

Is Hemp Fabric Biodegradable? Yes, it requires very little to grow very fast, and it actually produces more all while cleaning the soil and the air where it lives, leaving the soil better than when it arrived. Then it can become almost any kind of material the world could ever need. A growing population needs clothing, and hemp provides it at a fraction of the input of other materials, and without the need for harmful chemicals to get it growing or recycled after its been used.

While calling anything a miracle can be a stretch, Hemp’s incredible fortitude and wide array of uses makes it a truly incredible plant that humanity is only now starting to realize the full potential of despite using it for millennia. Especially now that climate change and pollution threaten at every corner, this is of dire importance, and hemp’s ability to return to the earth could make it the saving grace of the future.

Conclusion

Is Hemp Fabric Biodegradable? Yes, Hemp completely biodegrades because it is almost entirely made from Cellulose.

Discussion question: What are your thoughts on Hemp’s natural ability to biodegrade?

Thank you for taking the time to read Is Hemp Fabric Biodegradable? My mission is to make you an expert in all things Hemp.

To your wellness,

Jess Etchemendy

Have questions? Email me at jess@greenlifeorganics.com

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