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Thinking inside the Box

Traysrenew ProjectWhile hemp fiber is classically associated with being as a textile fiber such as for t-shirts, there are many other uses. Of course not all hemp fibers are textile grade, such as those that are the stalks from hemp seed crops. Consequently, a European research project is unpacking the properties of hemp into natural, renewable & biodegradable food packaging. And we’re not talking about rough burlap bags or paper forms. It’s a true plastic and is commonly referred to as bioplastic since it’s not derived from petroleum.

The Traysrenew project in the European Union (EU) was a multi-year project involving a consortium of manufacturers drawn from across the supply chain with researchers from Spain and England. The goal was to produce food trays for poultry products that are cost effective, renewable, and higher performance than their conventional counterparts which are made of Polystyrene (PS) or Polypropylene (PP). The food trays would be made from biopolymers which are derived from bast fiber plants including hemp and flax. The poultry sector was chosen due to its high volume, being that it produces approximately 11 million tons of meat annually in the EU, with an average per capita consumption of 50.6 pounds (23 kg) each year.

The interest on this kind of green packaging is being driven by both the industry and consumers. Manufacturers want lower costs and increased shelf life; consumers want fresh and safe food available in addition to products that reflect their values.

Technical challenges

Up to now, the use of biodegradable films for food packaging was considered limited due to poor barrier protection from environmental elements including: oxygen, water vapor, dust, light, and air, in addition to weak mechanical properties. The higher costs associated with the use of these materials has also been an ongoing issue.

Fiber-based hemp composites for packaging relies on both nanofibers as well as a specially derived powder that is mixed with other materials. Using a variety of methods the materials are mixed, compacted and melded — commonly by either heat or by letting the composite mix solidify.

Starting work in 2010, Traysrenew created and tested a thermoplastic tray and lid made of 85% biopolymers with 15% hemp / flax based microfibers. Testing showed this tray met all targeted industry performance standards.

As hemp fiber is known to have anti-bacterial properties, adding hemp to food packaging has the additional benefit of increasing preservation. However, technical details on these antibacterial properties are specifically lacking at the time of this writing.

Project results

The Traysrenew project touts their trays as having a shelf-life at chill temperatures of 10 days, which matches the typical sell-by date for how long poultry is displayed for sale inside a stores refrigerated display case. Poultry is considered to be easily spoilable by grocers, so anything that adds to the shelf life is welcome in the retail trade.

With this project, industry participants touted the economic benefits to manufacturers, the environmental benefits of using renewable and biodegradable packaging as well as the social benefits of increasing demand for fibers grown domestically on local farms.

It’s an open question as to when and if these trays will be adapted by the European food industry, but it’s likely. According to industry association European Bioplastics, a total of 700,000 tonnes of bio-based plastics were produced globally in 2010, and the market is projected to reach 1.7 million tonnes by 2015. 60% of these were used for packaging, making it the largest application of bioplastics. The growth rate for bioplastics is estimated at 22.5% a year.

Nations That Allow the Cultivation of Industrial HempFollowing are a list of 30 nations that allow the cultivation of industrial hemp. As of this writing, the three primary producers are Canada, European Union, and China.

Canada primarily produces hempseed that is used for human food consumption (shelled hemp / hemp hearts, hemp oil, and hemp protein), and body care products. The European Union primarily grows hemp for fiber with two primary end-uses being paper and automotive composites. China grows hemp primarily for textiles that are made into clothing and hemp cordage.

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Canada
  4. Chile
  5. China
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Egypt
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Hungary
  13. India
  14. Italy
  15. Japan
  16. Netherlands
  17. New Zealand
  18. Poland
  19. Portugal
  20. Romania
  21. Russia
  22. Slovenia
  23. South Korea
  24. Spain
  25. Sweden
  26. Switzerland
  27. Thailand
  28. Turkey
  29. Ukraine
  30. United Kingdom

Comprehensive and Recent Informational CD-ROM About Industrial Hemp Available Now!

The CD-ROM of the 2nd international conference of the “European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA)” is available now. On November 18th-19th, 2004 the leading experts in the field of industrial hemp met in Hürth, Germany for an exchange of their experiences and new developments.

The organisers have also included the complete contents of the 1st EIHA conference 2003 on the CD-ROM as special bonus material.

Thus 43 presentations, 6 videos, more than 100 pictures as well as various extras, for example an interesting link collection, await the interested buyer. The price margin is between 25 € (for students) and 75 €.

Copyright © 2005, European Industrial Hemp Association. All rights reserved.


After analyzing the enormous social and health-related costs of criminalising the personal use of drugs, which resulted from decisions made in 2000, the Ministry of Health has recommended de-criminalization of personal use again. The new laws would change our policy from the costly and counter-productive “zero-tolerance” model, back to a sensible harm-reduction appoarch.

Dr. Marek Balicki, Poland’s Minister of Health stated, “We still have the illusion that if we have criminal punishment for illict drugs possession, then we will solve the drug problem. Making criminals from young people that have tried drugs is without sense. This is not a good road. We should punish dealers, not their victims.”

Dr. Balicki stated that criminialisation of drug possession caused much harm to society and didn’t produce any positive results. This rational analysis by the Department of Health observed that imposing criminal penalties for drug possession hasn’t stopped people from using drugs and hasn’t made drugs any less available.

The new law in Poland also allows for other positive innovations. A change in the “marijuana” drug law makes it easier for farmers to obtain a permit needed to grow industrial Cannabis, hemp. This broadens the possibilities for hemp in different sectors of our food production, manufacturing industries and trade. Farming organically to produce industrial feedstocks for making paper, food, cloth, building materials, plastics, cosmetics and health products, allows for a major economic shift, with enormous potential for increasing Poland’s resource base.

Copyright © 2005, Centre des médias alternatifs du Québec. All rights reserved.

Hemp clothing has received a lot of negative press over the years and the time has come to give this amazing fibre a serious style makeover. Hemp is one our planet’s most ancient crops grown all over the world.

This great versatile fibre is currently going through a revival and it’s market potential is being pushed further all the time. The industrial hemp textile market is expanding rapidly with new interesting fabrics being developed every year. More versatile than other natural textiles, hemp can be woven in a variety of weights from linen-like to canvas, and in a wide array of colours and finishes. The fabrics are luxurious and blended with other natural fibres such as silk, wool, yak hair and cotton, they feel great on the skin. Hemp fabrics are great for people with sensitive skin because of the lack of bleaching agents used in the processing.

Once a person discovers the beauty of hemp fabrics and their design potential there can be no return to ordinary cotton or synthetic fabrics. Due to recent breakthroughs in fabric technology, what many people remember as a rough unyielding fabric has become soft, supple and versatile. Hemp needs to be re-introduced to the public as a luxurious fabric and dust off its image of canvas sacks and saggy tee-shirts.This is the aim of a new contemporary hemp clothing label called Enamore.

Enamore is a creative hemp clothing label launched in 2004 by Brighton based fashion designer Jenny McPherson, her business philosophy is to design and create fashionable, beautiful, contemporary clothing from a wide variety of hemp based fabrics and recycled materials.

“When I first started sewing I would re-create second hand clothes and curtains and make new new shapes from old 50’s and 60’s patterns which I collected from flea markets and bootsales. I taught myself a lot of sewing and pattern cutting from vintage books.”

Based in Brightons fashionable Kemptown district , Jennys studio is chock full of finished/half finished and in production garments.” after leaving college in 2003 I wanted to find a way of incorporating my creative skills with my personal beliefs about the clothing industry and our culture of wearing things a few times and throwing them away. I knew this would be difficult to achieve if I were to seek employment within the fashion industry so I decided to work on my own business idea. I received funding from both The Prince’s Trust and the Fredericks Foundation to get started and set up my studio and I also have the support from The High-land Company in Scotland.” Jennys clothing range consists of inspiring timeless shapes which celebrate the female form without overwhelming the woman who wears it.

“Hemp is the design choice as it is a varied, durable and longlasting organic fibre grown without the use of any chemical pesticides.”

Jenny designs the garments to stand on their own in the way of style. The business hopes to promote change in the way we look at ecologically sound clothing. Enamore takes a view on clothing as something one should be able to wear each year without looking out of date. The aim of Enamore is to become a part of the growing network of fashion labels and businesses supporting hemp and organic farming around the world.

Jenny sells the Enamore clothing range directly from it’s studio based in Brighton and will soon be available from various independent retail outlets in the U.K. including The Hemp Shop in Brighton. The business is seeking support from the network of existing hemp/organic clothing shops and distributors as well as support from within the fashion industry.

Copyright © 2004, Enamore. All rights reserved.

Premium Crops Ltd, a specialist UK crop production company, has announced the closure of its hemp and flax processing factory located in North Wales.

The decision results from a combination of several factors, such as recent changes to the EU Common Agricultural Policy and continued delays in the establishment of sustainable markets in the UK for industrial grade natural fibres. However, increasing pressure from a landlord appears to be a major factor.

“We very much regret the decision as we continue to view fibre crops as a medium to long term opportunity, but the economics of maintaining the facility cannot justify further increases in costs at this time,” said a spokesman for Premium Crops.

The factory comprises a complete processing line for the extraction and cleaning of fibre from flax and hemp straw, together with fibre blending facility, fibre and shive baling and dust briquetting equipment. It is the largest facility of its type to have been built in the UK in recent years.

The complete processing line will now be sold off, either as a whole or as individual components, with the intention to remove all equipment by the end of July.

Copyright © 2004, Premium Crops Ltd. All rights reserved.

The EU may have to keep a watchful eye on Latvian farmers who plan to market a hitherto unknown butter … with a very special ingredient.

Dark green, the butter is described by farmer Dainis Lagzdins as a “miracle of taste and flavour.”

“I love it, especially like my grandma used to make … the taste is heavenly.”

Using centuries’ old recipes to make the butter at home, Latvians use only soaked, roasted and milled cannabis seed, sometimes mixing it together with oil or butter.

And unlike the soft drug cannabis, it is legal.

Going international

Now Lagzdins, the director of the Iecavnieks company, has ambitious plans from this tiny Latvian village Iecava, 44kms south of the capital Riga, to introduce this hitherto unknown product to the world.

“Russian and Finnish salesmen have already shown an interest in our cannabis spread,” Lagzdins said, saying he was slightly concerned about whether he would be able to supply the speciality in large quantities.

He is currently fine-tuning his recipe, but swears by its health qualities — it does not contain milk proteins, or cholesterol, while cannabis seeds are a natural anti-oxidant.

Once prepared, the butter can be stored for half a year. But preparing good cannabis butter is not easy, being done mainly by hand, in 18 different steps.

Eat cannabis butter with potatoes, with small salted biscuits, but the best way is to enjoy the unique taste [is] just eating pure, wafer-thin slices of cannabis butter.
— Janis Grinbergs, farmer

No highs

Narcologist Janis Strazdins explained that consumers will not have any drug-induced “experiences.”

“Only seeds are used for cannabis butter. The narcotic substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is in the resin and blossoms only.”

And although cannabis butter and the cannabis seeds used to make it are legal, Latvia’s cannabis fields are under strict controls.

Farmers have to get permission to grow cannabis and can only grow it in the open air.

Strazdins added that with Latvia located on the 57th latitude, with short summers and cool and rainy springs and autumns, it was not possible to grow a narcotic variety of cannabis.

Foreign ingredients?

“However, we cannot exclude theoretically that prohibited hybrid from Holland with THC more than four percent could be brought in and sowed together with other seeds.”

But farmer Janis Grinbergs, who produces cannabis in northern Latvia in the village of Burtnieki, believes Latvian cannabis is good with lots of other foods.

“Latvian cannabis has a special taste. One could eat cannabis butter with potatoes, with small salted biscuits, but the best way is to enjoy the unique taste just eating pure, wafer-thin slices of cannabis butter,” he said.

Copyright © 2004, Aljazeera. All rights reserved.

Moscow, Russia — A Samara regional court has ruled that the makers of advertisements for the Swiss beer Hanfblute are guilty of promoting drugs after displaying a marijuana leaf along with the beer, the official ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

The court issued a fine of 40,000 rubles (over $1,300).

Regional drug enforcement authorities told the news agency that the Swiss firm launched a beer with an aroma similar to that of hemp on February 14. Prior to that, the authorities said, the beer-makers posted billboards with a marijuana leaf and the word “legalize” written in English.

Meanwhile, a group of independent experts did not find any traces of illicit substances in the beer, ITAR-TASS reported. However, experts, from the botanical department at the local state university, said that advertising posters did indeed display a marijuana leaf, “which connotes strong associations with the narcotic substance.”

The newly-created Federal Service for Drug Control has at least 40,000 officers to fight drugs in Russia. Recently the service has come under fire for its crackdown on literature that it alleges contains drug propaganda. Book stores had suspected books confiscated and were fined the same amount as the advertising agency — 40,000 rubles.

Copyright © 2004, MosNews. All rights reserved.

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom — A headmaster reacted with anger today to the sale of “cannabis lollies” just yards from his school.

The green 50p sweets are being sold at a Texaco garage in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, near to St Cuthbert’s High School.

Although the sweets contain hemp extract and not cannabis, headmaster John Wood said today they made the drug “look glamorous”.

Mr Wood said: “We are very unhappy that these things are on sale.

“We do our best to keep our children away from illegal drugs but youngsters will be attracted by them and may go on to try the real thing.

“Putting them on sale and marketing them is very inappropriate. They are making cannabis look glamorous and that is wrong.”

But Sal Guliwala, a partner at Texaco’s Dean Service Station, insisted the sweets were legal.

He said: “They do not contain cannabis, they contain hemp extract and we only sell them to over-18s.”

Texaco distanced itself from the decision to sell the controversial lollies.

A spokesman said: “Texaco does not sell hemp-flavoured lollies at any of its company-managed sites and neither does it condone the selling of such products.

“Dean Service Station is an independently-owned business with a fuel supply agreement with an independent fuel distributor.

“Texaco has no direct business relationship with the site. As a responsible company, Texaco has expressed its strong concern on the matter.”

Copyright © 2004, The Scotsman. All rights reserved.

Treuchtlingen , Germany — Krauss-Maffei Kunststofftechnik has adapted its long fibre injection (LFI) process so that natural fibre reinforcements such as flax, hemp or sisal can processed into polyurethane mouldings.

Natural fibre reinforced component polyurethane parts offer characteristics which are claimed to compare favourably with those of their glass-fibre counterparts. NFI Technology has been developed by Krauss-Maffei so that flax, hemp or sisal can now also be used for reinforcement.

With Krauss-Maffei’s LFI-process — presently employed in the moulding of instrument panel substrates for the BMW 5 and 7 Series, as well as the Mercedes SL ranges, for instance — the polyurethane-raw-material / glass-fibre blend is produced right inside the mixing head.

Direct wetting of individual fibres also ensures optimum adhesion of the polyurethane-matrix to the reinforcing material. Within the article being produced, volume and/or length of fibres can also be varied and adjusted to suit requirements — e.g. for extra reinforcement of mechanically particularly stressed sections of the moulding.

These characteristics can now also be used for the production of mouldings reinforced with natural fibre. Compared to glass fibre-reinforced plastics component parts, those reinforced with the lighter natural fibres can also mean weight-savings of about 15%, according to Krauss-Maffei.

The centre-piece of Krauss-Maffei’s NFI-process is the completely re-developed, purpose-designed cutting unit for natural fibres. Contrary to glass, natural fibres cannot snap in the same way. With the NFI-cutter, cutting natural fibre to length (at 5, 10, 15 and 20 millimetres) is carried out by the specially developed arrangement of two intermeshing gear wheels that also move the roving along. The NFI-mixing head itself operates to the well-proven high-pressure impingement principle: Once the PUR-components have been blended, the fibres — supported by compressed air — are conveyed into the centre of the PUR-stream. The air thus introduced expands and ensures particularly finely atomised and effective wetting of the natural fibres, which are poured into the open mould simultaneously with the PUR-blend. For the more effective covering of surfaces, the processing unit’s jet stream can also be made to oscillate.

The PUR-output rate of the present Krauss-Maffei LFI/NFI-mixing heads lies at around 80 to 300 g/s (LFI/NFI-22/28-MK8), or 250 to 500 g/s (LFI/NFI-30/36-MK12); the natural fibre content can rise as high as about 40%. Output rates of natural fibre at the present state of development are at around 80 g/s — subject to the tensile strength of the natural material. At a characteristic component part weight of 4000 grams, the typical NFI pouring time takes about 20 s (cycle time per mould: two to four minutes). Tensile strengths achievable with the natural fibre structure, elastic modulus and notched impact strength in three-to four-millimetre thick component parts (density range from 700 to 1100 kg/m³) are within an order of magnitude 32 to 38 N/mm2, (tensile strength), 3000 to 4500 N/mm2 (elastic modulus) and 10 to 30 kJ/m² (impact strength). Transition from LFI to NFI is possible with existing equipment, due to the modular design used by Krauss-Maffei.

Copyright © 2004, NetComposites. All rights reserved.