Plastic is the single greatest contributor to the water pollution crisis to date. Regular, petroleum-based plastic takes 500 to 1,000 years to degrade and less than 9% of the plastic that has become waste never even made it to the recycle bin – that leaves us with about 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste floating around the ocean and polluting the world. Unfortunately, this plastic pollution ends up in our bodies and those of wildlife. Consuming plastic and the toxins it releases on groundwater and soil can lead to a number of detrimental health effects.
The general public has been oblivious to these facts until recently when the production of biodegradable bioplastics started to become more commercial and green campaigns began sprouting up all over the world. Bioplastics are those derived from renewable biomass resources such as wood, corn, and food waste. Made using industrial hemp, hemp plastic falls under the bioplastic category.
What is hemp bioplastic? Simply put, industrial hemp, the none-hallucinogenic cousin of marijuana, contains plenty of cellulose which can be used to build bioplastics. Because of its properties, the fact that is not toxic and many other benefits, it can be used to build culinary products, toys, furniture, and more.
So, why is hemp better than plastic?
From an environmental point of view, it’s obvious that the biodegradable properties of hemp plastic make it a much better option. But more than that, hemp also grows much easier and faster, making it an extremely efficient crop for these sustainable plastics known as ‘bioplastics’. In short, hemp bioplastic is much more lightweight, biodegradable and can replace many oil-based plastics.
Additionally, compared to all other sources of bioplastics, hemp is stronger, cheaper and much more sustainable. Some of these sources contain similar or greater percentages of cellulose. However, cotton, for example, requires 50 percent more water to grow than hemp, and four times more water to process.
It’s clear that plastic pollution is a hazard, yet, alternatives such as biodegradable hemp plastic can be the right step towards a solution. Let’s dig deeper into why this alternative to plastic is the way to go.
How long does biodegradable hemp plastic actually last?
While plastic’s building block, cellulose, is usually procured directly from petroleum, biodegradable hemp plastic poses a much friendlier, stronger and sustainable alternative. Hemp plastic can actually be up to 5 times stiffer and 3.5 times stronger than polypropylene plastic. Extended shelf-lives of plastic means that fewer amounts of it needs to be produced, thus saving time, money and energy on all accounts.
In fact, hemp is so strong that it is considered to be “stronger than steel”. This is due to the fact that hemp can hold almost 2 times the weight steel can hold before it cracks and can bend almost 6 times better than steel. The “cooked” cannabis bark that turns into carbon nanosheets are considered to be equal or better than graphene – an object composed of the lightest, strongest and hardest material to date.
Its formidable strength and rigidity have brought hemp plastic to the attention of different industries and it can now be found in the construction of cars, boats, and musical instruments.
Can Hemp Replace Plastic?
Plastic ends up affecting wildlife, humans and the planet in general as it starts breaking down into smaller particles while exposed to sunlight. These small pieces of plastic are eventually consumed by wild animals such as birds and marine life trickling down the consumption of plastic on to humans. While traditional plastic takes about a thousand years to decompose, hemp bioplastic only takes around 3 to 6 months. Within half a year, the waste of a product made out biodegradable hemp plastic will fully vanish – no toxins added to the planet, beautiful!
Not only is the production of biodegradable hemp plastic completely organic and sustainable, but it also helps absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen without generating any toxic byproducts. Plastic is considered toxic to human health, mainly due to the fact that it contains BPA and industrial chemical that has been proven to be harmful as it is tied to the development of cancer and altered children’s behavior, among others. Yet, biodegradable hemp plastic doesn’t contain BPA nor does it release toxins into the air.
Is hemp bioplastic expensive?
Hemp bioplastic is also cheaper to produce because it doesn’t derive from petroleum. When comparing the two, a pound of raw polymer is much more expensive than a pound of hemp raw material. In the car manufacturing industry, hemp composites have already begun replacing carbon and glass fibers as they are less expensive and dangerous. Hemp fiberglass replacements would only cost 50 to 70 cents a pound compared to 60 cents to 5 dollars a pound for their dangerous counterpart.
Due to its strength, cost, and availability, hemp plastic can be used to produce a wide variety of products all over the world as hemp-based plastic is molded into almost any shape. From electronics, containers, toys, cosmetics, furniture or packaging made from hemp, its use has been drastically increasing thus steadily causing this industry to boom. According to Grand View Research, by 2020 bioplastics are predicted to control 5 percent of the plastics market, rising to 40 percent by 2030.
Will hemp replace plastic?
Probably not for a long time but hemp based plastics are definitely the future of this industry. Of course, as we all begin to rationalize the environment changes and try to pitch in for a better future, products made out of hemp plastics will begin to become a norm.