Article review by Anna Boone
A recent article found on Salon, entitled “Can hemp save the economy” details the issue of how hemp contributes to our economy and how that contribution could increase if industrial hemp cultivation was legal in the United States. Sales of hemp products amount to $450 million, and all of the hemp used to make these sales is imported. Availability of domestic hemp could drive down the cost of this raw material and make the market more competitive.
How can this industry be improved? Well, start off with a domestic fiber source. The article informs us of a new bill currently in our US House of Representatives. From the article: “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, introduced in the House on February 6 by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), would… amend federal drug law to legalize growing cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC. ” This bill, if passed, along with a companion bill in the Senate would enable industrial hemp plants to be grown in the United States. This link from Project Vote Smart details the Senate Bill. Passage of these bills into law would be great news for FlexForm Technologies. Development of a domestic natural fiber supply could cut costs for the raw material necessary to make our products.
As the article mentions, because of the criminalization of cultivation of Industrial Hemp, there is no infrastructure to process the plant available in our country. Even if the plant was legalized, it would take some time to develop the facilities and knowledge base to refine the raw plant into usable components for manufacture. However, you have to start somewhere! It is great to see this issue getting some attention.
Our company is mentioned in the article “One new product is car-door liners. Manufacturers such as Flexform Technologies in Elkhart, Indiana, and Johnson Controls’ German plant take felt-like mats of non-woven hemp fibers, spray them with resin, and then press them into the appropriate shape. BMW and Ford use the light, strong material in their cars’ doors” We always appreciate seeing our company and products promoted in the press, but here the author got a few things incorrect. First thing is that FlexForm uses a variety of bast fibers for our mats, not limited to hemp fiber. Secondly, and more importantly, we do not use any resins in the process to product mat for automotive interiors. Resin is not necessary for these applications. We create a non-woven mat with a blend of bast fiber and polymer fiber. This mat is then heated and molded to shape. Once cool, the shape and strength are such that the part can be installed into an automobile.
All in all, a great article and nice to see some media coverage of this important issue.