Hemp Could Be the Solution to Our Plastic Pollution Crisis
Bioplastics made from hemp are a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastics that have become the scourge of the ocean.
Plastic is a significant source of pollution. It's with harmful additives, made from oil and takes hundreds of years (or longer) to degrade. A patch of plastic and sludge the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific Ocean right now, killing ocean life in untold numbers. By 2050, the United Nations estimates there will be more plastic, by weight, than fish in the ocean.
Our planet is choking on plastic and people are desperately looking for an alternative that won’t pollute the Earth. Hemp just might be the solution to our plastic problem.
Hemp plastic is biodegradable.
One of the biggest selling points for hemp plastic is that it is biodegradable. While your run-of-the-mill plastic bag will take several centuries to degrade, it only takes hemp plastic three to six months to degrade. Naturally, this means that hemp plastic may not always be a perfect fit for every plastic application. But when it comes to single-use products, like plastic straws, hemp would make an ideal replacement.
Making hemp plastic is better for the environment.
Another benefit of using hemp plastic over regular plastic is that its manufacturing process does far less damage to our environment. According to Forbes, most plastics today are made with fossil fuels extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is a process where deep rock formations containing petroleum and natural gases are fractured with high-pressure liquids.
Although energy companies tout fracking as a “clean” method, the truth is that fracking can pollute the air, ground soil and water supply with a host of harmful toxins. A notorious example of fracking pollution is the documentary Gasland, where in one scene a man sets his water tap on fire by merely holding a lighter next to the faucet.
Since hemp plastic is not made from fossil fuels, it has none of the baggage that comes with traditional plastic.
Hemp is a great raw material for plastic.
Aside from the fact that hemp plastic is better for the environment, hemp is simply an excellent source of plastic. One of the critical components of plastic is a material called cellulose. When looking for an ideal source for plastic, you generally want to use a material that has high concentrations of cellulose. In addition to hemp, two of the leading sources of cellulose are cotton and wood.
On average wood contains approximately 40 percent cellulose and cotton has cellulose concentrations of around 90 percent. Hemp contains roughly 65 percent to 75 percent cellulose. Although hemp has lower concentrations of cellulose, cotton requires 50 percent more water to cultivate and four times as much water to process. While cotton might make a “better” source for plastic than hemp, when you take into consideration the environmental impact, hemp wins out.
Combating pollution and climate change is never easy. Over the last several decades, humans have become set in their ways and often don’t want to give up many of the amazing inventions that have been discovered, like plastic. But luckily, thanks to hemp plastics, they may not have to.