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The world’s first recyclable vehicle

July 26, 2007 at 3:28 am

The world’s first recyclable vehicle could be a step closer to becoming reality thanks to an agreement between Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), car manufacturer Ford, and Hemcore, the UK’s largest grower and processor of hemp.

The Government is putting £500,000 into the project to develop new materials from hemp, flax and willow fibres which will be used as substitutes for metals, glass fibre and oil based plastics in car manufacturing. Once mixed with polypropylene, the new material will be moulded to create components likely to include accelerators, brakes and clutches. It is hoped that it will eventually be used for body panels and larger car components. Early estimates suggest that it could eventually replace up to 100kg of other materials in an average sized car.

Because cannabis (the psychoactive drug rather than the plant genus) is a product of hemp, cultivation is strictly regulated. Hemcore has a licence to grow 3,000 hectares of industrial hemp, producing sufficient material for 60,000 cars. The fibres will be extracted at a factory in Essex. Hemp is already used in the production of clothes, paper and rope – its fibrous stalks are ideal for these products. Despite the fact that a “hemp car” would have low raw material and energy costs plus a low impact on the environment, Friends of the Earth is unimpressed. The charity feels that the government should be concentrating on trying to get cars off the road rather than investing in new technology to make them less damaging to the environment.

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