Hemp plastic seems to be all the rage… So we set out to discover if hemp really was all it’s cracked up to be.
In favor of hemp plastic
Hemp contains 65-70% cellulose, which is used to make biodegradable plastics. In comparison, wood is around 40% cellulose, flax is 65-75%, and cotton can be up to 90%. (However, cotton does take 50% more water to produce…) Source
Hemp is biodegradable. Synthetic plastics (like grocery bags) can take several hundred years to decompose entirely. Biodegradable plastics – including hemp – take only 3-6 months! Source
So what’s the downside?
The downside of hemp plastic
Ok, there’s not really a downside to hemp plastic, but there are definitely realists speaking out.
Hemp is not the end-all solution. As one plastics engineer pointed out,
“Why can’t we make all plastic products out of hemp?
Because you could kiss goodbye to great swathes of the planet’s biodiversity in order to farm enough to process it into a biofeedstock for plastics.
Because the end product will not have the barrier properties or the correct flexibility and tensile strength for every packaging, electrical and automotive application – though it may for some.
Because the plastics already used to package everything from paracetamol to life-saving blood for transfusions have been tested to the high standards medical grade polymers have to meet in order to be marketable. To test a bioplastic made of hemp feedstock for every single application would be incredibly expensive and in many cases entirely pointless.”https://www.eppm.com/blogs/editors-blog/speaking-up-for-plastics-in-a-plastic-bashing-world/
And then there’s the whole legal issue. Only recently was the farm bill passed which legalized industrial hemp. Because the legality is so recent, there’s still a lot of research to be done.
Hemp plastic is awesome – but it’s not the only solution.
While it is biodegradable and high in cellulose, it’s also not the only material that’s good for plastic production.
So what’s the real solution?
While there are always many ways to solve a single problem, it’s also true that many small solutions add up over time. And while we can root and cheer for plastic engineers to discover better ways to create plastic, we as consumers can help too!
Here are three things you can do:
Recycle what you can
Recycling means more than just finding a blue can somewhere. Recycling can mean donating things you don’t use. It can mean upcycling. It can mean rehoming a once-used item. Get creative!
Don’t contribute to the pollution problem by lazily discarding your trash. Make the effort to find a trash can (or even better – a recycling container) to properly dispose of your garbage.
Choose reusable over disposable plastic
Grocery bags, water bottles, straws… If you can choose reusable over disposable plastics, DO IT. Keep your reusable grocery bags in the car. Refill a water bottle. Every little bit counts.
Hemp is environmentally friendly – make sure YOU are environmentally friendly too!