Why the world needs hemp plastic?
- Researchers found 38 million pieces of plastic waste on one uninhabited island in the South Pacific. That’s just one island.
- Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute
- A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
- Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
The demand for plastic is never-ending. Almost every product we use today is made out of plastic. From the toothbrush we use after we get up in the morning to our laptops we use for work, nearly every product has some parts made out of plastic. The industry supplies an array of products to businesses ranging from the automotive industry and healthcare product manufacturers to food manufacturers. Plastic products are convenient to use and throw away, but they take an incredibly long period of time to decompose. Plastics have been a major cause of pollution, and plastic manufacturers have faced criticism from environmentalists over the years.
Advancements in technology have resulted in plastic manufacturers producing eco-friendly, biodegradable products. The industry is changing its production techniques to make environmentally-friendly products. There are three types of “environmentally friendly” plastics. They are:
Bioplastics are made from natural materials like cornstarch. Unlike traditional and biodegradable plastics, bioplastics do not produce a net increase in carbon dioxide gas when they break down.
Biodegradable plastics contain additives that cause them to decay more rapidly in the presence of light and oxygen. These plastics are made out of normal petrochemical products and do not always break down into harmless materials like bioplastics do.
As suggested by its name, plastic products that are recycled to make new products are called recycled plastics. Recycling old materials to create new products has its drawbacks.
Today we are gonna talk about bioplastic that is made from HEMP.
Hemp plastic is increasingly becoming a viable option as an eco-friendly alternative to carbon-based plastic. Not only is this bioplastic sourced from safe and sustainable hemp plants, but it is also typically both biodegradable and recyclable.
Hemp plastic is nothing new. Durable rope, cloth, industrial building materials and more has been made from hemp for thousands of years.
Henry Ford famously designed and built a car almost entirely made out of hemp plastic in the 1940s. There is even a rumor he wished to fuel it from ethanol eventually. Ford's finished vehicle only relied on metal for the frame. It was therefore over 1,000 pounds lighter than a comparable model and the hemp plastic paneling was far more resistant to damage.
In 3 – 4 months hemp can grow to produce over 50.000 commercial products including anything wood, paper, cotton or plastic can be used for.
Hemp contains around 65-70% cellulose compared to wood 40%, flax 65-75%, and cotton up to 90%. What makes hemp really shine is its high cellulose count combined with its favourable growing characteristics and low environmental impact. Hemp plants are experts at absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, this helping them to grow quickly and outpace competing plants. Hemp plants also require fewer pesticides, fertilisers and water than other bioplastic resources such as cotton and wood, providing a more environmentally friendly, low maintenance crop.
Fact: Hemp plants are known to absorb as much as 4x the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere as trees, while growing in a fraction of the time
MANY BENEFITS IF HEMP PLASTIC
When made with a biodegradable polymer hemp plastic is fully biodegradable and recyclable.
Here lies the great potential for this material. Normally we think of recycling as a reuse or reshaping of mechanical parts, though if we were to use more biodegradable materials we could introduce a whole new cycle that would be much more environmentally friendly.
Hemp plastic is a truly sustainable solution to oil based plastics.
- Non – toxic and eco - friendly
Petroleum-based plastics contain harmful toxins like BPA, which have been linked to infertility, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a whole slew of other negative health issues. Hemp plastic does not contain any of these dangerous toxins at all. This makes it a much safer product for both our health and the health of our environment.
Producing hemp plastic requires 22-45% less energy than fossil fuel based plastics. Taking into account the amount of carbon emissions absorbed during cultivation, carbon emission savings are upwards of 70% with most coming from processing and machinery.
- Renewable resource
Hemp is a renewable resource that benefits the environment instead of degrading it. Hemp crops prevent soil erosion, reduce water pollution, absorb toxic metals, and can be cultivated over and over again.
Hemp detoxifies the soil as it grows, removing harmful chemicals and pollutants. After harvest, leaves and stalks that are left behind break down and enrich the soil with valuable nutrients like nitrogen and oxygen.
- Stronger and lighter
Compared to petroleum-based plastics, hemp plastic is 3.5 times stronger and 5 times stiffer. As a result, hemp plastics are more durable and have a lower chance of breaking, which also makes them safer. Hemp plastic is also much lighter than regular types of plastic. The versatility of hemp bioplastics means that they can be used for bottles, bags, furniture, boats, and electronics amongst a variety of other uses.
Today there are only a few companies making use of hemp in the production of bioplastics. With hemp often wrongly tied in with cannabis legislation, this can lead to sourcing difficulties. This can add sufficient costs to the production process, and has undoubtedly slowed research efforts into hemp's use as a bioplastic. Despite these difficulties, there are companies taking advantage of the diverse and favourable characteristics of the hemp plant, paving the way for more companies to learn and adapt on their success.
Plastics have become so entrenched in everyday life that it is easy to be oblivious to the negative impact they are having on our planet. Bioplastics provide a real solution to maintaining the functionality of plastics, while minimizing our ecological footprint.
Making drastic changes to plastic manufacturing techniques on a global scale will not happen overnight. There are few economic incentives for companies to do so, with profitability and accessibility driving the decision process – maintaining the desire for cheaper petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastics . What we need to initiate this positive change will be consumers and businesses that create innovative ways to support and champion such change.