Over 300 millions tonnes of plastic is manufactured every single year and only 9% of that is recyclable. Almost every single industry that you can think of has an issue with single-use plastics that subsequently ends up dumped in landfills or dumped in our oceans. Finding alternatives to these single-use plastics is critical to the survival of the ever-changing Earth because not only are they damaging habitats for our wildlife, they are also entering our food with current estimates showing that we each eat the equivalent of a credit card worth of plastic a week.
Plastic is predominantly made from polluting and non-renewable petrochemicals that take 500-1000 years to degrade. Clearly, this is an environmental and health hazard to humans and all wildlife, having been linked with the rise of cancer rates, diabetes and cancer, and damage to the immune system.
It is evident that the current model of plastic production is unsustainable for our planet. Fortunately, new technology has been developed that allows plastics to be made from the waste products of plant matter. Called bioplastic, this renewable, sustainable, and cheap product is made from cellulose that could help slow down the damage caused to our environment.
Table of Contents
Hemp is a great source of the cellulose needed to make bioplastic, being approximately 65-70% of hemp’s matter. Cellulose is an organic material that is a fundamental part of the cell wall in plants and could offer the change we are seeking to the plastic problem that is currently harming our planet.
Hemp is a non-intoxicating variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant that is grown for its multiple industrial uses. It can be used in medicine, skincare, food, textiles, paper, fuel, and as an alternative to plastic. The only difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, the main intoxicating cannabinoid that is banned in the UK.
As a result, hemp has no potential to be abused recreationally and is non-intoxicating to humans or the environment. Hemp is also the main source of cannabidiol (CBD) which is currently being tested and used for a wide range of medical conditions and as a health and wellness supplement.
Hemp bioplastic vs plastic
The inception of the plastic industry saw hemp being quite commonly used for its plastic producing properties. Hemp bioplastic was a favoured compound for Henry Ford, the creator of the Ford automobile company, who used hemp plastic for a variety of components within his vehicles.
But, what advantages does hemp plastic have over regular plastic?
Petroleum-based plastics take up to 1000 years to fully biodegrade, which causes it to become a waste problem that fills up our environment. Hemp plastic is fully biodegradable in 6 months.
During break-down, plastics made from petroleum produces byproducts that are a danger to the environment. From BPA to polybrominated diphenyl ethers, the substances present in regular plastic pose a threat to the health of all wildlife.
Hemp plastic is non-toxic to the environment or humans and animals. So, once it has degraded after 6 months, its bioproducts are safe.
Strong and versatile
Hemp bioplastics can be used for a wide variety of applications because of how strong and light it is. A common petroleum-based plastic is PP (polypropylene). Hemp plastics are 4 times stronger than polypropylene, as well as being lighter.
The versatility of hemp bioplastics means that they can be used for bottles, bags, furniture, boats, and electronics amongst a variety of other uses.
Renewable and environmentally friendly
Conventional plastics are made as a by-product from the steam-cracking of crude oil into petrol, diesel and other hydrocarbon fuels. Crude oil is a finite resource that will eventually run-out.
Hemp is not only 100% biodegradable, but it can be continually planted and harvested, offering a far more extensive resource than crude oil. As an added benefit, hemp is an amazing crop for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in turn lowering the levels of greenhouse gasses that lead to reducing global warming through hemp.
Ultimately, from individuals to big corporations, everyone’s initial concern should be to reduce their plastic consumption entirely, which will reduce the demand for plastic and reduce its production. Following this, any plastic purchased should be reused, which stops it from entering our landfills and oceans. Follow the rule of thumb – reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order.
Purchasing recyclable plastic and recycling it is no longer helping the environment in the way that scientists initially first thought it would because the costs of recycling are too high. The alternative now is to find products such as hemp bioplastics, which have many advantages over regular plastic, including being a stronger and renewable paper that is better for the environment.