Report on the „Fibre Seminar“ in POLOLO‘s ShowRoom, Part 4

At the end of our “Fibre Seminar”, the natural fibre hemp and a few short remarks on the topic of the “Green Button” were on the agenda. The first hemp fabrics are said to have existed in Asia a good 12,000 years ago, said guest speaker Heike Hess, office manager of the Association of the International Natural Textile Industry (IVN).

Hemp prohibition phase led to loss of technical know-how

In the territory of present-day Germany, hemp seeds first appeared about 7,000 years ago. In 1937, hemp (cannabis) was banned for the first time in the USA because it was associated with the narcotic marijuana. After the World War II, hemp had lost importance as a material due to technical innovations. In Germany, cultivation had been banned in 1982. Despite the lifting of the ban in 1996, this prohibition phase led to a loss of technical know-how. This lecture was also recorded on video: “Hemp – The universally applicable natural fibre” (in German).


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Almost 200,000 tonnes of hemp from China every year

Today, according to Hess, hemp only accounts for just under one percent of the textile materials used worldwide. China is the current world market leader with knowledge and technology as well as the largest cultivation area – with an estimated 100,000 hectares, an output of less than 200,000 tonnes is achieved annually. In comparison: Europe has roughly one tenth of the cultivation area and just under one tenth of the output. Canada follows in third place.

Hemp – predominantly positive properties

Hemp is considered to be a universally applicable raw material (food or food supplements, cosmetics, textiles and other products, including paper and building materials). The material properties are outstanding: The high tensile strength even increases with moisture. The absorption and release of moisture is higher than with other fibres. Hemp creases less than linen or cotton, for example. There is also no electrostatic charge and thus no irritation of the skin. At a comparable fabric density, hemp has a higher UV protection effect than other fabrics. Only the slow rotting could be seen as a disadvantage.

All-round usable, robust and frugal natural material supplier

In traditional cultivation, no fertilisers or pesticides are actually necessary – but they are still used in industrial cultivation, as well as growth hormones. In the so-called roasting process (extraction of plant fibres), fungicides are sometimes also used (water roasting) – in general, roasting with water or chemicals involves a high water consumption or use of chemicals. The cultivation of organic hemp mainly relies on mechanical measures, healthy soils and a larger plant spacing. There is, however, one problem with the increased cultivation of organic hemp today: Nature conservation areas such as taiga or tundra are threatened with destruction. According to Hess, the use of hemp, especially organic hemp, is supported by the fact that the entire plant can be used and a high yield per hectare can be achieved. Hemp is considered a pioneer plant – it is robust and frugal.

GREEN BUTTON: Focus on people and the environment along the supply chain

At the end of the official part, Franziska Kuntze and Heike Hess reported on the new “GREEN BUTTON” initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Collapsed factory building in Bangladesh shook things up

This initiative goes back to the fatal accident of the collapsed “Rana Plaza” factory building in Bangladesh in 2013, in which more than 1,100 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured, some of them seriously. This event shook up many people in Europe and made them aware of the unbearable conditions under which most of their textiles are produced in the countries of the so-called Third World.

A sign of social and ecological responsibility

In response, the BMZ founded the “Alliance for Sustainable Textiles” in 2014 and put the comparison portal “Siegelklarheit” online in 2015. In 2019, the independent certification procedure “GRÜNER KNOPF” (GREEN BUTTON) was launched – with the aim of protecting people and the environment a little better along the entire supply chain.

POLOLO Screenshot: Heike Hess introduces the audience to organic hemp