Hemp plastic is probably the unsung hero of industrial development, because there is usually no fanfare about it.
The lack fanfare and media mileage is due to the fact that industrial hemp is derived from a variety of Cannabis sativa plant, which is more commonly known as marijuana.
In terms of chemistry, the difference between hemp and cannabis in popular usage is that hemp has higher levels of CBD, which is incredibly medicinal, compared to cannabis which is cultivated for its high THC content. In today’s post, we are going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of using hemp for making modern plastics.
- It is incredibly strong. Henry Ford, no doubt one of the greatest industrialists in America, was actually one of the earliest champions of making composite plastic from industrial hemp.
Before World War 2, he had already been gearing up to take advantage of industrial hemp so they may become part of Ford cars.
He actually demonstrated the strength of this type of plastic by creating a prototype car with hemp plastic as the main material of the body and beating the surface of the car with a club. The result? Not a single dent, even after all that pummeling.
- Hemp plastic is recyclable. Compared to the 50 to 100 years required before conventional plastic can decompose, hemp plastic only requires three to six months to break down completely.
Imagine hundreds of tons of hemp plastic waste simply breaking down in a quarter of a year. Mankind has been so dependent on plastics that we actually need an alternative like hemp plastic in order to hurt the planet less.
- Hemp plastic is more heat resistant. Hemp plastic has almost three times the heat resistance of conventional plastics made of polypropylene.
This makes this material a wonderful base not only for ropes, but also for clothing, and even survival gear. The sheer number of potential uses of tough hemp plastic that resists both UV and heat is staggering.
- Competition with food crops. At the rate things are going right now, the shift to bioplastics like hemp plastic ‘might’ mean that crops needed to produce these alternative plastics would overtake production of food crops.
However, this is still a big ‘what if’ since food shortages are usually associated with poor distribution and economic mismanagement, and not because farmers are given the choice to plant other crops.
- Bioplastics still need recycling facilities. While bioplastics can break down in three to six months, they require specific environmental conditions in order for this to happen. This bears repeating: if we produce and use plastic, we are also responsible for containing, collecting, and recycling the said plastic.
- It will not solve oceanic garbage. There is already an unfathomable amount of plastic litter in our oceans, and merely shifting to bioplastics will not solve marine garbage issues. People still need to come together to pressure governments around the world to address marine garbage.