Georgia-Pacific Enters Licensing Agreement to Add Hemp to Products

The Atlanta-based paper towel and toilet paper manufacturer is partnering with Bast Fibre Technologies, which makes nonwoven products with plant-based fibers.

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February 26, 2020

People may soon be cleaning hands and homes with the help of hemp.

Bast Fibre Technologies Inc. (BFTi), based in Victoria, Canada, has announced a new partnership with Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific, a company known for manufacturing products like toilet paper and paper towels. The companies have entered a global licensing agreement for “a suite of patents related to the application of intact plant-based bast fibers in a variety of nonwoven products and processes,” BFTi says in a press release.

As part of the agreement, Georgia-Pacific is licensing its intellectual property to BFTi for use in its nonwoven products.

Bast fiber, also known as phloem fiber, is found in the inner bark of hemp as well as other bast family plants like flax, jute and kenaf. BFTi, which is an engineering firm that works specifically with bast fiber, says these fibers have key benefits when used in nonwoven products, like natural absorbency and strength even when wet.

Nonwovens are textile-like materials featuring fibers that are not woven together on a loom, but instead laid on top of each other. These materials are found frequently in everyday-use items like absorbent hygiene products, cleaning wipes and tea bags, BFTi says.

Georgia-Pacific currently uses airlaid nonwoven substrates in products like wet wipes, baby wipes, absorbent food pads, personal hygiene products, cleaning wipes, napkins, table covers, placemats and Oshibori towels, surgical drapes and tray covers.

These single-use disposable products, like wet wipes, have come under fire in recent years for plugging up sewers and polluting waterways, especially because much of the fiber used in them is synthetic or semi-synthetic. With a growing number of U.S. localities, and even countries globally, introducing single-use plastic bans, BFTi says the nonwoven industry recognizes the need to find alternative fibers that are natural and sustainable. 

"Over the last few years, we have been working very closely with our farming and supply chain partners who share our goal of transitioning the nonwoven industry away from synthetic fibers to natural bast fibers," says BFTi CEO and Chairman Noel Hall. "Displacing man-made synthetic fibers with all-natural fibers such as hemp requires an intimate knowledge of agronomics, natural fiber processing and deep technical knowledge of both nonwoven manufacturing processes and market opportunities."

BFTi says because the U.S. and Canada recently passed farm bills that encourage hemp cultivation, it expects the countries to produce the hemp fiber supply needed to transition from synthetic to natural fiber for single-use nonwoven markets.