Hemp Makes Great Plastic, So Why Isn’t Hemp Plastic Everywhere?Plastic is an inescapable part of our everyday lives, so why is almost all of it still made from polluting, non-renewable petrochemicals?
You may have heard that agricultural hemp, the non-mind-altering cousin of cannabis (commonly known as marijuana), has dozens of potential uses from clothing to paper.
Since virtually all climate scientists agree that we must replace our dependence on fossil fuels, and given that hemp can even make the soil cleaner, it’s surprising that this miracle crop isn’t in wider use.
When we looked into the topic, we found that hemp is already appearing in some commonplace objects, including cars, and could soon find it’s way into more. But there are also remaining barriers that keep hemp plastics more expensive and less versatile, for now.
Alternatives Needed As Plastic Pollutes Water & Land
Researchers found 38 million pieces of plastic waste on one uninhabited island in the South Pacific. That’s just one island.Not only are the harmful effects of global warming increasingly clear, conventional plastics linger in the environment and can even enter the food chain to detrimental effect on human and animal health.
In one especially shocking recent example, researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found 38 million pieces of plastic waste on Henderson Island, an uninhabited coral island in the South Pacific.
“I’ve travelled to some of the most far-flung islands in the world and regardless of where I’ve gone, in what year, and in what area of the ocean, the story is generally the same: the beaches are littered with evidence of human activity,” Jennifer Lavers, a marine scientist from the University of Tasmania, told The Guardian.
The oceans are in a similar or even worse state, thanks to the risk of microplastics, or tiny fragments of plastic that pollute the waters and are often eaten by marine life. The infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is actually largely composed of millions of these tiny particles — as much as 1.9 million per square mile — according to a 2014 report from National Geographic.
Hemp Cellulose Fibers A Good Source For Many PlasticsSome of the earliest plastics were made from cellulose fibers obtained from organic, non-petroleum-based sources.
“Hemp cellulose can be extracted and used to make cellophane, rayon, celluloid and a range of related plastics,” reported Seshata, a writer at Sensi Seeds in 2014. “Hemp is known to contain around 65-70% cellulose, and is considered a good source (wood contains around 40%, flax 65-75%, and cotton up to 90%) that has particular promise due to its relative sustainability and low environmental impact.”