Hemp fiber, a sustainable wonder in the nonwovens market?
Global trends indicate that plastic-free products are becoming increasingly popular while claims of climate neutrality are steadily increasing. As a result of policies like the European Green Deal, we are seeing nonwoven consumer markets move more rapidly toward sustainability and “naturalness” while attempting to maintain performance requirements. The clear fiber choices historically have been rayon, lyocell, and wood pulp to help deliver sustainability claims, but with the substantial increase in demand for these fibers, alternate fiber options are also being investigated.
Hemp fiber, also known as a bast fiber, continues to expand its potential as an alternative fiber for nonwovens. For example, its cultivation contributes to the European Green Deal objectives, like protecting our biodiversity and ecosystems while reducing air, water, and soil pollution, making it an ideal fiber alternative both now and in the future. As an alternative to wood-based cellulosic fibers, hemp is a tree-free and compostable material that can offset deforestation concerns while easily blending with other fibers, such as cotton, wood pulp, viscose or lyocell to provide optimal performance characteristics.
Transfer from plastics to more sustainable alternatives is ongoing in many industries like packaging and textiles. Hemp has been used in textiles for centuries. Hemp is a fast-growing plant, and it is a regenerative crop that helps revitalize the soil. Compared to cotton, hemp uses less water, and considerably fewer pesticides.
Hemp provides several properties that are beneficial in consumer markets. Hemp fiber provides great wet softness, strength, absorbency, and wicking properties. The fiber has a low carbon footprint and is free of harmful chemicals creating a value equation that is in line with many other sustainable fiber choices.
From a fiber and nonwoven development point of view, the cooperation between Suominen and BFT has been eye-opening and interesting.
Suominen’s BIOLACE® Natura is a developmental product utilizing hemp mixed with cellulosic fibers, that addresses consumers’ preference for sustainable and natural choices. In addition to its earlier mentioned features, it is 100 % plastic free and is inline with the European SUPD directive. This product expansion will continue to support Suominen’s sustainability leadership goals and provide another great option to the market for reduced carbon footprint aspirations.
Hemp is suitable for various end-uses and applications:
• Home cleaning
• Industrial cleaning
• Baby and Personal care wipes
• Medical wipes
"We are excited to continue our cooperation with Suominen to address the market's need for alternative fibers and we believe our sero™ brand hemp fibres can play a crucial role in the creation of regenerative single-use products. We already know that hemp fiber performs well in textiles, and now that it has been validated on commercial nonwoven lines for wipes, hygiene and other personal care applications, the future looks bright for this alternative tree-free solution," says Lars Bo Lauritzen, Chief Commercial Officer, Bast Fiber Technologies Inc.
"From a fiber and nonwoven development point of view, the cooperation between Suominen and BFT has been eye-opening and interesting. We have conducted several pilot runs, but also in production scale with important learnings, and we’ve analyzed the results together to improve the final product," says Mari Rahkola, Senior Manager, Business Development.
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