Plastic has been a major part of our lives for decades, but its environmental impact is becoming increasingly apparent. Petroleum-based plastics are non-renewable resources that take centuries to break down in landfills, and when burned, they release toxic gases into the atmosphere. Fortunately, hemp is an efficient and sustainable crop that can be used to produce biodegradable plastics known as “bioplastics”. Hemp-based plastics are lightweight, strong, and non-toxic, and they can replace many petrochemical plastics.
In this article, we'll explore the potential of hemp-based plastics and how they can help reduce our reliance on petroleum-based plastics. Hemp grows prolifically, making it an ideal crop for producing bioplastics. Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the early 1950s, and more than half of it has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment. To produce the pure cellulose needed for polymerized hemp plastic, all non-cellulosic material must first be removed. Unfortunately, this process is long and complex and consumes a lot of energy, making pure bioplastics more expensive to produce than their petroleum-based alternatives. Most hemp plastics on the market today are biocomposites, a mixture of hemp fibers with other plastic compounds.
Hemp fibers are used to reinforce an existing polymer and create a fiber-reinforced biocomposite. Currently, most hemp plastic on the market contains between as little as 5% and a maximum of up to 30% hemp biomaterial. Therefore, many hemp plastic products advertised as “sustainable” are actually conventional plastics mixed with hemp biocomposites. These materials cannot be recycled or offer any real sustainability benefits compared to traditional plastic products. However, there is a growing list of hemp products that could help rid the environment of petroleum-based plastics.
Hemp-based products can replace toxic plastic products in every way. And unlike petrochemical plastics, manufacturing hemp-based plastic is environmentally friendly and cost-effective.Zeoform brand creates hemp plastics through cellulose-based plastic. The company uses a patented process that involves the use of water and natural cellulose fibers, such as hemp. Pure Hemp Technology has developed a Continuous Countercurrent Reactor (CCR) that uses the lignin polymers in hemp to create terephthalic acid, which makes up 70 percent of the raw materials in plastic bottles. Plastic made from hemp does not contain harmful endocrine disruptors such as petroleum-based plastics.
Hemp-based plastics are five times stiffer and 3.5 times stronger than polypropylene, one of the most common types of plastic. Hemp plastic is definitely a very promising product that could be increasingly focused on the future due to its robustness, durability and versatility. Biodegradable hemp plastic can save the environment from toxins when manufactured with biodegradable polymers. However, even companies that produce 100% hemp and bio-based plastic materials do not have composting facilities in the United States. As markets for grains and cannabinoids grow, the cost of fiber will decrease. Hemp is also being used to make clothes or biodegradable cellophane through its rich nutritional qualities through Hemp Foods Australia and Elixinol, which also sells cosmetic products.
The cellulose in hemp is soaked in acid to further break down the crystalline structure of the cellulose. Hemp can be used as a natural fiber, and its high tensile strength makes it an attractive option. Hemp plastic is non-toxic, as long as farmers grow the crop responsibly without pesticides or heavy metals. In addition, hemp grown in toxic soils absorbs toxins but does not release any toxins into the air itself. Hemp-based plastics offer a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastics that can help reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources while protecting our environment from toxins. With more research and development into this promising technology, we may soon see a world where hemp replaces plastic.