[Media Awareness Project]

Canada: Hemp Blended into Auto Parts

Newshawk: Joe Hickey (agfuture@kih.net) Source: The Windsor Star Section: Business Author: Alisa Priddle, Star Automotive Reporter Pubdate: 26 Feb 1998 Contact: letters@win.southam.ca Website: http://www.southam.com/windsorstar/


Detroit, Tucked away in the Canadian row of exhibitors at the world’s largest technology trade show is a company determined to get some mileage out of acreage. Kenex Ltd. Of Pain Court, a village west of Chatham, is about to plant its first crop of commercial hemp for industrial use. A growers’ meeting is scheduled for March 4 and president Jean Laprise is hoping 810 hectares will be seeded in May and harvested in August.

It makes Kenex one of the more usual booths at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International Congress and Exposition which wraps up today at Cobo Conference Center in Detroit.

The show, with more than 2,000 exhibitors, is a tribute to the hi-tech future. It features, among other innovation, concept cars with televisions and video games, electric steering and the latest in airbag technology. And it has Kenex, which has spent the last three years growing research crops and lobbying the federal government to make industrial hemp legal so it can be blended with polyester to make products like door panels.

Hemp, and its narcotic cousin, marijuana, were outlawed in Canada in 1938. Sixty years later, hemp is grown in southern Ontario and Health Canada has said it will have applications available as of March 1 for licenses to produce and process hemp.

Only government-approved varieties from pedigree seeds can be grown. They will be imported from Europe until Canadian pedigrees are developed.

Hemp is ecologically friendly, non-toxic, light weight for greater fuel efficiency, and offers a high tensile strength. It is bio-degradable, impact-resistant while meeting safety and quality standards, and is low abrasion, making it worker and equipment friendly. Hemp is versatile: capable of blending with other fibres, resins and plastics, it is a good alternative material to wood, glass and synthetic fibres.

Among its potential automotive applications are: headliners, sound and thermal insulators, composite mouldings, fibre composites, interior panels, matting, floor coverings, and truck liners.

Kenex has been experimenting with its use in door panels and headliners. Laprise said the company has been working with about six mouldmakers. The resultant products are half hemp, half polyester.

There is a great demand for the product, which has been imported from Europe, said Gay Myers, who handles Kenex’s administration and marketing. “We’re going to bypass that and offer it in Canada.”

Laprise hopes to have contracts signed by spring and inventory from the experimental crops is a couple hundred tonnes, enough to run the processing plant for a few months.

Construction of the Pain Court plant is finished and all the equipment should be in place within three month.


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