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Is hemp fiber the new sustainable knit for footwear?

November 5th, 2020 / By: / Expo News

Zoe Newman, a graduate student from North Carolina State University’s Wilson College of Textiles, shared her research on the impact of introducing hemp fiber into more sustainable knit footwear during IFAI Virtual Expo 2020. Newman explained that sustainable materials are lacking in the textile industry, especially for footwear, and integrating natural fibers into the market can reduce environmental waste. She discussed some of the recent positive developments in the footwear market, such as the use of more recycled synthetic knit being incorporated into products. She pointed out that while this reduces waste, it doesn’t actually solve pollution or sustainability issues.

Newman’s research examines the feasibility of integrating industrial hemp into the footwear industry. Unlike synthetic yarns, natural yarns such as hemp degrade directly into the environment. Industrial hemp fiber has many of the same qualities as cotton, yet growing it requires less water, it grows more quickly and it requires fewer pesticides and herbicides. Currently, half of the world’s hemp supply is grown in China, says Newman, however growth is increasing in the U.S. thanks to legislation legalizing its use (industrial hemp does not contain psychoactive ingredients).

Newman’s research concluded that:

  • A combination of appropriate knit structures and natural fibers allow for important properties to be achieved in the footwear industry.
  • Hemp has excellent air permeability and moisture regain attributes.
  • Waste can be further reduced through the integration of natural fibers in footwear.
  • Integration of natural yarns into footwear will greatly benefit the environment.

Registration for IFAI Virtual Expo 2020 is open through Nov. 12. All Expo sessions will be posted on the Virtual Expo platform for viewing during Expo and for 30 days after Expo has concluded.