HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Alberta Seeks New Use For Hemp
Pubdate: Fri, 16 Nov 2007
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Section: Pg 3
Copyright: 2007 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Hanneke Brooymans
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


$2.25-Million Research Project Hopes To Blend Plant Fibres With Plastics

For centuries, humans have found practical uses for hemp, weaving it 
into items such as rope and clothing. Now the Alberta Research 
Council wants to tighten those bonds by determining more cutting-edge 
uses for this versatile plant.

A new two-year, $2.25-million project hopes to find ways to blend 
Albertagrown hemp fibres with locally produced plastics to create 
more sustainable materials.

The research council is well placed to do this work because it has 
spent the last decade working on biofibres and bioindustrial 
products, said John Wolodko, the council's biocomposite program leader.

Similar research has been done in Europe, where hemp fibres are 
integrated into items such as automobile panels. But all the 
questions haven't been answered yet. The council's research will 
determine the best ways to use and blend Alberta hemp with plastics, 
Wolodko said.

Along with funding from the Alberta government, the council is 
partnered with AT Plastics, which is supplying material and expertise.

Ultimately, the company hopes the project will open up another market 
for their products, said Larry Vande Griend, polymers technology manager.

Naturally Advanced Technologies, a Vancouver-based company, is also 
on board. The company has a subsidiary that wants to provide 
biocomposites for higher-end use in the automotive, marine and 
aerospace industries, said Jason Finnis, chief operating officer.

Finnis said he believes these biocomposites can be expanded to car 
hoods from their main current use as the inside panels of car doors.

Finnis and Wolodko say hemp is strong. Other advantages over the 
glass fibres now used to strengthen plastic are that it's light, can 
be cheaper to make and its production results in fewer greenhouse gas 

The council will look at how much hemp to blend with the plastic, 
what length of fibres to use, and how different types of hemp plants, 
called cultivars, affect the product.

Wolodko said the council grows its own hemp in test plots at its 
Vegreville facilities.

Industrial hemp is different from the plant used to produce 
marijuana. It can't be smoked to get high because it contains little 
of the psychoactive ingredient, THC.

In 2006, only 2,000 hectares of hemp were grown in Alberta. That's 
more than in the United States, where there's still a ban on growing 
industrial hemp, a situation Wolodko calls "ridiculous."

"Europe is leading the way and we're trying to follow."

Farmers are reluctant to grow it because they don't think there's a 
market, while manufacturers are wary of using it because they don't 
know its full potential and don't think the supply is sufficient, he said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman