Leaders in the hemp industry have prized the crop’s versatility for years. Hemp can be harvested for food, medicine, fiber, fuel and other purposes. Although the industry has made progress in the development of hemp products, consumers can now expect this development to rocket forward because hemp has found a new ally in 3M Co.
This Minnesota-based American multinational conglomerate corporation is famous for developing popular household products like Post-it Notes, Scotch Tape and Command Hanging Strips, among other household and industry-specific products. Now, the corporation is turning its attention to more environmentally friendly products, and 3M leadership reportedly believes that hemp could be the key to their success in this venture.
Why is 3M experimenting with hemp now?
Don Davidson, 3M’s Global New Product Marketing Manager spoke this week at the virtual National Hemp Symposium organized by Oregon State University. According to Hemp Industry Daily, Davidson claimed that 3M’s customers are “clamoring for environmentally friendly offerings.”
“Pretty much all across the board, regardless of if it’s a consumer or they’re industrial, health care, transportation or energy, they’re asking for more sustainable solutions,” Davidson said.
3M may also be looking at greening their reputation for other reasons. Although not reported by Hemp Industry Daily, 3M’s push for environmentally friendly offerings occurs after the company has appeared negatively in recurring news coverage regarding perfluorochemical (PFC) contamination in ground water, a topic that is drawing national attention again as the Biden administration and the State of Minnesota consider new regulations regarding PFCs.
The corporation’s hemp development also comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has decreased demand for many of the corporation’s office supply products. The related losses reportedly caused the company to cut roughly 2,900 jobs near the end of 2020.
What kinds of products could be in the works?
Despite the corporation’s complicated reputation, it likely does have the capability to make the most of hemp’s potential.
Davidson reportedly said that 3M has been experimenting with hemp outside of the United States for years . The corporation reportedly ramped up its domestic research-and-development significantly after the 2018 Farm Bill passed.
“This base material has so many applications across the company,” Davidson reportedly said.
At this time, the corporation is actively researching hemp fiber and hemp oil for use in garbage bags, general plastic bags, surgical gauze, conventional box-sealing tape and adhesives for aerospace and transportation. It is researching hemp as a component of nonwoven agricultural material for use in preventing soil erosion and weed growth. It is even researching hemp as a component of a growing matrix for cells used in regenerative medicine to do things like cultivate healthy liver or intestinal tissue.
When will 3M’s hemp products become available?
“We’re looking at, ‘How we use that hemp fiber for not just a handful of product applications, but an incredible amount of applications, and the positive impact that will have,’” Davidson said, though he reportedly admitted that it is still unclear when 3M’s new hemp products would come to market or how much hemp fiber the company will need.
“We still want to learn what type of converting has to happen with the hemp fiber, whether it’s using the fiber for material as opposed to adhesive,” Davidson said.
He reportedly explained that the global supply of hemp is still small, so 3M’s research and development teams must determine what is available in the supply chain and establish a decent supply before they can really start working with the material.
“Once we get that base material and we can start to develop prototypes, then we can get that out to our customers,” Davidson said. “And that’s when things pick up and really fill out that product pipeline involving hemp.”