We talk about plastic pollution, but we do not necessarily take that seriously. If we did, the situation would be different today. In 2016, a population of more than 7 billion across the globe produced over 320 million tons of plastic. The average daily level of plastic pollution in our oceans and seas is 8 million pieces.
The estimated number of macro and microplastics drifting around in our seas and oceans is 5.25 trillion. Their weight is about 269,000 tonnes. Plastic pollution kills about 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and one million seabirds every year.
It does not leave the land or even the human body unaffected. Health research says that 93% of Americans aged above 6 test positive for BPA. It is a chemical in plastic that has links with several serious health hazards.
Not really a joke, is it?
Hemp Can Help
Cellulose constitutes the main ingredient of plastic. Currently, cellulose for plastic gets derived from petroleum. As it happens, hemp is also very rich in cellulose. It is possible to produce plastic from hemp, therefore.
The primary factor behind plastic pollution is the nearly indestructible nature of petroleum-based plastic. Hemp plastic, on the other hand, is fully biodegradable.
Hemp is a member of the cannabis Sativa plant species. This variety is farmed almost exclusively for the industrial uses of the products derived from it. Hence the name industrial hemp.
The narcotic cannabis and hemp both belong to the cannabis Sativa species. The psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is present in both of them.
But the presence of THC in hemp is of considerably lower concentration. The concentration of the component cannabidiol (CBD) is higher in hemp. That makes the psychoactive effects of hemp significantly lower than cannabis.
Hemp is an annual plant cultivated from its seeds. It can grow up to 16 feet in height. Sandy loam soil, good drainage, and an average monthly rainfall of 65 mm provide hemp with the best growing conditions.
With small greenish-yellow flowers, hemp has many uses. Hemp Seeds are edible. One can eat them raw or pulp them into hemp meal. Hemp seeds are also sprouted and powdered.
Raw hemp leaves get used as a salad ingredient. Hemp juice gets produced by pressing the leaves. Hemp seeds get cold-pressed to yield hemp oil. Hemp fiber gets produced from the stalks. These fibers are used to produce biodegradable hemp plastic.
Hemp has several industrial uses. A mixture of hemp and lime produces blocks similar to concrete. These are not strong enough to support a structure. But they get used for insulation in construction.
Some scientists and architects in France are currently researching on developing stronger construction materials from hemp. If successful, we could soon see houses entirely made of hemp
Hemp fiber mixed with fiberglass, kenaf, and flex is in use since 2002 to make automobile door panels. Renowned car manufacturers like BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Mercedes, and Saturn use door panels, headliners and trunks made of hemp composite.
The hemp pulp resulting as industrial waste gets used to make hemp paper. Hemp paper gets used for banknotes, cigarette paper, and technical filter paper. A fun fact about hemp fiber: it gets used to produce canvas. The term ‘canvas’ has come from ‘cannabis.’
Advantages of Hemp Bioplastic
Being biodegradable and eco-friendly is reason enough for hemp plastic to replace petroleum cellulose-based plastic completely. But this recyclable bioplastic has several other benefits also.
Nontoxic: In sharp contrast to the hazardous BPA effect of PP plastic, hemp bioplastic is entirely nontoxic for the human body. It does not generate toxic fumes if burned.
UV Resistant: This bioplastic is thermal and UV resistant. Some varieties of hemp bioplastic are also flame resistant. Hemp plastic has 2.5 times more strength than usual polypropylene (PP) plastic.
Cost-effective: The production of hemp bioplastic is easier than that of plastic. It is also more cost-effective. A recent European study reports that hemp plastic can reduce carbon emission by 30 to 80% in comparison with PP plastic. Its source, the hemp plant, is also carbon negative.
One of the major challenges against the growth of hemp bioplastic is its association with narcotic cannabis. Hemp farming is prohibited in several countries as a result.
It is time for governments around the world to realize the advantages of this versatile bioplastic. Hemp plastic offers a sustainable way out of the use of the traditional practice.
Let us take committed steps towards fighting the menace of plastic pollution. Say no to plastic. Ask for hemp bioplastic instead.