Hemp plasticis increasingly becoming an eco-friendly alternative to carbon-based plastic. Plastic pollution is destroying our planet. It takes around 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade and last year in the United States alone there were 35 Billion plastic bottles dumped into land and sea devastating our natural ecosystems. This in turn greatly harms our body and fills it with toxins.
So how can Hemp plastic help?
The basic building blocks of plastic are cellulose. It is currently obtained from Petroleum. However, petrochemical plastics are harmful to the environment and our health.
Here’s where Hemp’s role comes in. Hemp has a high count of cellulose. Hemp plastic is made from the stalk of the hemp plant which is required for plastic construction providing both strength and flexibility.
Hemp contains around 65-75% cellulose compared to wood (40%) and cotton (90%), but what really makes hemp stand out is its high cellulose count combined with it’s favorable growing characteristics and effect on the environment.
Hemp plants take just 3-4 months to grow and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. It also requires fewer pesticides and fertilizers making it a more eco-friendly option than cotton or wood.
Here are some of the benefits of Hemp plastic:
- Hemp plastic is bio-degradable- Conventional plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose whereas hemp plastic takes around 3-6 months to decompose. Hemp plastic can be completely bio-degradable when made with bio-degradable polymers and is a more eco-friendly solution compared to petroleum-based plastics. It can also be recycled indefinitely without releasing any toxins, unlike conventional plastic which releases toxic chemicals into the environment when recycled.
Hemp plastic is stronger and more durable than conventional plastic-
Hemp plastic is 5 times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than conventional plastic. The fibers of the hemp plant are spread randomly enhancing its strength and durability in all directions. The plastic is also extremely lightweight, with a high density to weight ratio making it a useful material in the aerospace and automobile industry.
Hemp plastic is extremely versatile-
Since hemp plastic is so durable it can be molded into literally anything. Some of the uses of hemp plastic include:
- Toy parts
These are just some of the products that can be made from Hemp plastic. It can replace conventional plastic products in every way possible.
- Hemp plastic is easier and cheaper to manufacture than conventional plastic-
Hemp plastic is completely plastic-injectable. It works by filling up a hopper which melts raw material before expelling it into a molded cavity where it is solidified.
This process is highly efficient and cheaper when compared to using petroleum to produce plastic and since hemp plastic is much more recyclable and renewable, it becomes a much more efficient and cheaper alternative to produce in the long run.
Hemp plastic can help reduce pollution-
Conventional plastic is made from fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during production. Production of hemp plastic is better for the environment compared to plastic made from fossil fuels. Producing hemp-based plastics requires 22-45% less energy than fossil-fuel based products.
Hemp absorbs 4 times more carbon dioxide than trees during its short growth cycle and converts the carbon dioxide into oxygen. Hemp plants also enrich the soil it’s grown in and prevents soil erosion. Moreover, the by-products of hemp-based plastic are non-toxic in nature.
Hemp plastic can help in conserving and protecting wildlife-
Traditional plastic has contributed to the death of millions of animals in the sea and on land. Plastic generally breaks down into smaller pieces when exposed to sunlight and is ingested by marine animals which causes great health hazards and eventually death.
Plastic also destroys forest life as the plastic that degrades in the forest is picked up by plants and animals causing them great harm. Plastic made from Hemp on the other hand is non-toxic and bio-degradable and can create a sustainable and healthy environment for the planet.
Let’s look at some of the uses of hemp plastic:
Manufacturing of Automobiles-
In 1941Henry Ford built a car made from hemp plastic and the car ran entirely on hemp fuel. This was the world’s first carbon-negative car. Nowadays many car manufacturers like Honda, Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Ford, and BMW are using components made from Hemp like door panels, trunks, and headliners. These cars are fuel-efficient, carbon-neutral, and about 30% lighter. Since these cars are bio-degradable, they won’t harm the environment in the future.
Manufacturing of Paper -
Hemp has been used to produce paper for a long time. Paper made from hemp is of the finest quality. Hemp-based paper is naturally acid-free and never turns yellow or brittle over time compared to traditional paper. Trees normally take 20-30 years to be ready to extract paper while hemp plants take just 3-4 months to grow and be ready to extract paper from. This makes hemp the perfect material to manufacture paper.
Manufacturing of Airplanes-
Hemp is lighter than traditional airspace material like aluminum and fiberglass and therefore requires much lesser fuel to reach a higher altitude.Hempearth, a Canadian hemp company has designed the world’s first Airplane made and powered entirely by Hemp. Everything about the plane right from the seats, wings, plane walls, and even pillows is made from hemp. The best part is the plane runs entirely on 100% Hemp oil!
Hemp can replace a wide range of building materials. Hemp-based plastic is safer and sturdier than fiberglass making it a great replacement for building components made from traditional plastic. Building materials made out of hemp are cost-effective and have a lower negative impact on the environment compared to traditional building materials.
While we’re still a long way off completely eliminating the use of traditional plastics, hemp-based plastic is definitely the future. Hemp certainly isn’t the answer to all our environmental problems but it’s definitely a start to creating a sustainable environment for all of us to thrive in.