Hemp Plastic: Using Hemp To Save The Earth
Every day we see plastic-based pollution in the streets or hear commercials preaching on the environmental impacts of plastic on wildlife and Earth. But what are our feasible alternatives? Hemp is one alternative and could be a replacement over traditional plastic materials.
Hemp Plastic: The Highlights
- Hemp is found to be 5 times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than traditional materials used to produce plastic products
- Natural plant sources blended with hemp are now being used in the construction of cars, boats and even instruments
- Hemp can’t become a one-size-fits-all plastic replacement due to mitigating factors, but it can make a difference
- Although hemp seems like it could improve the alignment of production with the Earth’s well-being, supplies are not as easy to come by as hemp cultivation remains to be extremely labor intensive
- All plastics can’t become bio-degradable for the same reason we promote the act of recycling
What Is Hemp Plastic?
The first thing that must be clarified is the definition of “hemp”. There is a lot of confusion that is commonly found between hemp and marijuana. Although they both hail from the mother plant, cannabis sativa, they couldn’t be more different in terms of composition and use.
Hemp is a type of cannabis sativa that is mainly used in industrial settings for a myriad of essential societal products.
Additionally, hemp on average contains less than 0.5 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the compound in cannabis that produces psychoactive effects. With that being said 0.5 perc is an extremely low content, meaning it would be very difficult to experience similar psychoactive effects from smoking hemp.
Hemp plastic is a type of bioplastic, which are plastics derived from any renewable biomass source, such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch, straw, wood chips, food waste, etc. Hemp plastic is usually produced in two versions, one being regular plastic intertwined with hemp fibers and the other being a 100 percent pure hemp plastic product.
The Strength Of Hemp Plastic
Hemp plastic is said to be the strongest natural fiber known to man. Hemp plastic has proven to be 5 times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than Polypropylene (PP) Plastic. If you didn’t know PP is a type of plastic that is widely used for an inconceivable amount of things.
The products made up of PP plastic include food containers, bags, rope, toys, kitchenware, fabric, packaging, chairs and perhaps millions more. Just imagine how much non-biodegradable materials could be converted into reusable or biodegradable materials.
Although 100 percent hemp plastic has yet to hit the mainstream public and industrial scene, mixed hemp plastic is making its place in society. Thanks to the strength and rigidity of hemp, when it is mixed with other plant sources, manufacturers have used it in the construction of automobiles, boats, and instruments.
All of which are products that go through an extreme amount of varied stress over a long period of time and need to be very reliable.
Using Hemp As A Source For Plastics
Hemp is a great source for bioplastic and could replace much of the existing plastic as a healthier alternative. However, there are several setbacks we must endure and a few questions we must ask ourselves before we peg hemp plastic the way out of our global problems relating to pollution.
Can Bioplastics Solve The Pollution Problems?
Although “100 percent hemp” and “Biodegradable” sound like a picture perfect combination, it isn’t as easy as it seems. Biodegradable materials are definitely better than non-degradable materials, but they can still become a source of pollution when they end up in traditional landfills and cause problems for our oceans.
The only way to achieve efficient disposal of biodegradable materials is to send them to a commercial composting facility, which as you guessed, is not available to everyone. Bioplastics alone can’t solve our pollution problems, but more responsible attitudes towards waste, continued research and efforts are the places to start.
Why We Can’t Use Hemp For All Plastics?
Questions like this one will never cease to be proposed for any number of topics. We can’t use hemp plastic for everything due to the same reasons that we don’t have flying cars yet. Although both sounds very nice rolling off the tip of your tongue, in reality, they are both unfeasible and come with a lot of obstacles on the way to implementation.
The first reason for hemp not being the sole source of plastic is that it would take a tremendous amount of land and manpower to do so. A lot of land and farmers who are already dedicated to growing tomatoes, grapes, and apples would have to become strictly hemp farmers.
This would cause a huge hit to the global biodiversity of farming, just imagine eating potatoes, asparagus, and meat patties for the rest of your life. The second reason that hemp does not make up the entirety of plastic production is the time and money already invested in developing task-specific, high-grade plastics.
One example is the plastic that has been produced and tested to the highest standards possible in order to effectively carry life-saving blood transfusions.
The time and money it would take to replicate hemp plastic testing and standards for each and every global application of every other plastic would take a big chunk of change form each nation’s bank account and carry on into the next millennia.
Why Can’t All Plastics Be Biodegradable?
The same reason all plastics can’t become biodegradable is the same reason why humans pass down cars, clothes, homes and other useful tools. Why would you want to waste all of the hard work building or creating something, just to let it decompose?
Just imagine if you decided to buy a new car and instead of passing it to your family member or selling it to someone who doesn’t have a car, you decide to drive it into a forest and let it decompose, what a waste! The biggest reason for biodegradable products to be available is that people are really bad recycling and properly separating their waste.
If more people decided to exercise their efforts into placing plastics, glass, and others into proper bins and landfills, those same materials would fuel a new generation of consumers and products without having to ravage the earth for more materials.
We can’t make all plastics biodegradable because it makes more sense, and is cheaper, to educate people on recycling and proper waste separation.
Hemp Growing Is Labor Intensive
Although growing hemp requires fewer pesticides and produces a smaller environmental impact than other growing crops, the production of hemp continues to remain a very labor intensive task. It has reached a point to where hemp cultivators are reaching out via social media for upwards of 40 people to help harvest a hemp crop over the weekend.
Majority of crops grown around the world are pumped out easy and quick thanks to mechanical developments over generations of farmers and inventors. However, hemp farmers are without this technological advance as current modern machines would cause harm to the plant’s stalks which is an important ingredient.
Another reason that the labor involved in hemp cultivation is so intensive is that it must be stored in order to be processed throughout the year, adding a hamper to production times.
The Benefits Of Hemp Plastic
The use of hemp plastic can drastically diminish the use of harmful plastic such as polypropylene in the production of common products such as cups and containers. Hemp plastic has also proven to be 5 times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than traditional plastic materials.
With that being said, hemp plastic has already started to be used in the production of transportation vehicles on land and water. The increased usage of hemp plastic means a decrease in dangerous, pollution-causing, non-degradable plastics being produced.
Given ample time for scientists to develop and companies to implement, hemp plastic can make a substantial positive environmental impact.