Growing decriminalization of cannabis across the U.S. is renewing industrial hemp’s opportunity to overthrow synthetic materials in the fiber race. This post from Leafly discusses why hemp is the best alternative to synthetic fibers and can become the fabric of our future.
In our last article, Hemp vs. Cotton: 3 Reasons Why Cotton is Not King (and Why Hemp Should Be), we focused on industrial hemp’s advantages over cotton, another natural fiber. This time, we’ll delve into synthetics, which we believe are inherently worse than any natural fiber.
In the last century, natural fibers have been replaced by synthetics to a great extent. Although attractive because of their low price, mass production, and customization, synthetic fibers are petroleum-based, non-biodegradable, non-renewable, and result in toxic waste products. While they may be cheap to produce, there are hidden costs to both our health and our Earth.
The fastest growing segment of synthetic fiber consumption is polyester, with a recorded demand of 55.2 million tons in 2014. The production and disposal of it contributes to an array of environmental problems. Perhaps worst of all, petrochemical textiles have hurt hard-working American farmers. Unlike natural fibers, synthetics are not grown, they’re extracted from deep in the Earth, removing the farmer from the equation.
Conversely, hemp is renewable, biodegradable, and beneficial to the environment. Hemp fibers have some of the strongest mechanical properties of all natural fibers. Additionally, hemp materials can be used in thousands of applications, ranging from incredibly strong ropes to luxuriously comfortable fabrics, from bottles to building materials. Hemp can even be converted into biofuels to power the mills that use it.
With new energy extraction technology such as fracking, the supply of hydrocarbons is considered by some to be infinite. Clearly, that cannot be the case — sooner or later, oil will become scarce and natural fiber options will be more highly valued. Why not put American farmers to work to grow sustainable natural fiber crops now?
As people turn away from synthetics, their first inclination is to turn to cotton. Although we support all natural fibers over synthetics, we stand by our assertions that hemp is superior to cotton and trust that one day hemp will be the fabric of the future.