Hemp plastic is a kind of a bioplastic that comes from the hemp plant. Under a microscope, plastic consists of hemp fibers and cellulose. This plastic is 100% biodegradable, which also offers a viable solution to the biggest epidemics we currently face in our climate crisis. That is to get rid of plastic from our water bodies and landfills.
The Plastic Dilemma
After the industrial revolution, one of the biggest raw materials to be used in manufacturing and production processes was plastic. Plastic is so vastly used in our everyday life that it is almost a building block of the world we see. Its booming demand in industrial processes and materials has hundreds and thousands of uses.
From being used in the automobile industry to the spoons you use to put food in your mouth, you are likely to find plastic all around yourself. It is a vital raw material in textiles, mechanical production, food, and drugs; it is a versatile and cheap material, which is hard to resist for most capitalist businesses.
However, there is a dark side to this material and a reason to why the world is so desperately trying to get rid of it. The problem is that it is not so easy to get rid of plastic itself!
The material is what we call non-biodegradable. That means that it will last centuries and lifetimes until perhaps most humans will perish. Most of our landfills have plastic, and our oceans are ridden with plastic bags, bottles, straws, and more.
Hemp plastic offers a solution to this problem that humanity is intelligently trying to tackle. However, even though hemp plastic offers a great solution, it is still not widespread and used by global manufacturer and producers. So, the question is why hemp plastic isn’t taking over the world despite it being the solution to all our problems.
What is Hemp Plastic? How is it a solution?
Hemp plastic is one of the many byproducts of the hemp plant. It is made from the cellulose derived from hemp leaves. This plastic is a great alternative for bottles, plastic bags, day to day utensils and plastic components.
It classifies as a biodegradable material and qualifies as a much more eco-friendly option as compared to plastics that come from polyethylene. Traditional plastic is non-biodegradable and is filling up our oceans and water bodies.
It is one of the biggest causes of water pollution and is swelling our landfills by the minute. It is one of the leading causes of global pollution, depletion of resources, and endangering marine animals and wildlife.
However, the question still remains, can hemp replace plastic? While there needs to be a lot more research in the area, there are a lot of places where hemp can replace traditional plastics. Although not entirely. Biodegradable hemp plastic calls for special production, manufacturing processes, and much more capital to fully develop.
Why isn’t Hemp Plastic Taking over the world?
While it offers a great solution to our climatic crisis but it is still under work. It requires a lot of new data, research and investment to be fully made use of within the production and manufacturing industries.
Coca-Cola, for instance, invested money towards using hemp plastic bottles in their company instead of traditional plastic bottles. However, they came to the realization that it will require a lot of changes in the production line. In addition to which, formulations and durability need to undergo tests for its longevity and shelf life.
Many industrial giants like Coca Cola have the ability to invest such large sums of money into their production line and keeping the cost of the product to be the same. However, small businesses and industries are unable to make that leap on their own and prefer to avoid it altogether.
The Hemp Plastic Transition
Hemp plastic is more in the talks since the past year. This is due to the farm bill of 2018 that allowed the use of industrial hemp in manufacturing processes. It has been only a few months, that its byproducts are not as cheaply available as traditional plastic and fiber products.
While hemp production has recently boomed, that does not necessarily mean there is adequate technology to meet the mass commercial demand for plastic and fiber. In addition to that, there is a lot of testing that industries require before switching their plastic components to biodegradable hemp plastic!
Furthermore, these components need to undergo testing, and their compatibility with other parts has to be studied before it is a final product in the market. Hemp plastic does have potential and it will take its sweet time before hitting the consumer market.
Producers are not ready to bear these extra costs when their main goal is to cut down costs and improve profit margins. This really clashes with the way most capitalist industries operate and change will take time.
Proper Channels of Disposal
Biodegradable hemp plastic is a great solution; however, it will still cause pollution. Microplastics can be a cause of the problem for the ocean regardless of their plant origin. Moreover, even to biodegrade these plastics, they need composting facilities and a proper channel of disposal; that most countries have not invested in yet.
Needless to say, the transition for Hemp plastic to replace traditional plastic is even more difficult, given that these resources are not there in terms or reusing and recycling. This makes the transition even more difficult for large industries and different retailers.
Even if companies decide to switch their production components to hemp plastic, they uproot their supply line horizontally and build it again wherever required. Even stable and established businesses would think twice before taking that step.
The Future for Hemp Plastic
Now the future isn’t as glum as it may seem. Since hemp’s legalization, the research, development, and investment in the sector have doubled.
There are a lot more discoveries, technologies, and developments that can change the way hemp products are produced. Similarly, it will eventually get cheaper to produce hemp plastic and trade it to industrialists.
The global hemp markets are expected to grow 30% to 50% in the coming years. As it grows as a raw material for many industrial processes, it is also likely to blossom in the plastic industry. While it’s competitors are strong, the human race is in dire need of eco-friendly materials.
We have an urgent need to stop the use of products that kill our planet. Plastic is very high on that list. This is what makes hemp plastic much more unique. Growing hemp requires no extra fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides.
Most hemp plant varieties are organic and free from GMO’s and additives. This is also evidence of the purity of its byproducts. Its what makes them safe for use in industrial products and food and drugs. The hemp plant also grows without the need for too much water and does not require a fallow period.
The future is bright for this one!