One of the most significant dangers to our wildlife, environment, and global climate is something nearly every person on Earth uses every single day: plastic (single-use plastic in particular).
It is devastating oceans and waterways, covering land and beaches, and filling landfills at a staggering rate.
This is not a problem we will be able to outrun.
Thankfully, there are cannabis companies across the globe dedicated to developing hemp-based solutions to our plastic problem.
Scientists are using hemp to create biodegradable plastics, called bioplastics, that are harmless to the environment and degrade in just a fraction of the time of standard single-use plastic.
The Plastic Plague
Almost every household item is made of- and packaged in- plastic.
Distribution has items covered in layers upon layers when they ship to stores.
Shipping items to your home is no different.
In 2018, the EPA estimates 27 million tons of plastic were dumped into American landfills alone.
As of 2020, National Geographic reported an estimated 5 trillion tons of plastic and micro-plastic in our oceans.
This problem becomes even more serious when you consider it takes approximately 1,000 years for a single piece of plastic to decompose.
A More Sustainable Future
Compared to plastic’s thousand-year decomposition rate, hemp bioplastic takes only 6 months to fully break down.
Additionally, the production of hemp bioplastic drastically reduces the amount of greenhouse gas and fossil fuel emissions compared to standard plastics.
The Hemp Plastic Company is one business working to alleviate the plastic problem.
They’ve created a hemp-based polymer resin that can be used to create a multitude of things that would normally be made of hard plastic: pens, drinkware, dinnerware, food containers, household items, assembly items, and more.
CEO of The Hemp Plastic Company Glen Kayll says we have to think outside the box when we think of plastic solutions.
“We all should consider that there are hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic consumed in rigid durable goods in the automotive, appliance, consumer products, packaging, construction, industrial, and other industries –– global change needs to include, but also go beyond, grocery bags and drink bottles.”
When asked if he ever saw a future that completely replaced plastic with hemp bioplastics, Kayll remarked, “While I don’t know if that’s entirely realistic, since plastic is an exceptional material used in thousands of applications, I can definitely see a future where millions of pounds of fossil fuel plastics are replaced with mother nature’s easy to grow, carbon sequestering, hemp. Why wouldn’t we?”
Editor’s Note: An Affordable Reality?
Hemp bioplastics are amazing, but there are barriers to implementation.
According to Hemp Magazine, petroleum-based polypropylene pellets fluctuated between $1.00-$1.15 per pound in 2018.
If hemp plastics were to compete with petroleum plastics, the price per pound would need to be no more than $1.27 per pound.
Market prices for hemp plastic that year were $2.35 per pound.
In North America, most hemp fiber used in manufacturing is imported from Europe.
New Frontier Data reported more than 100 million pounds have crossed the Atlantic since 2015.
Until domestic cultivation can match demand, the cost of shipping will continue to drive up prices.
The hemp industry must create an infrastructure to support large-scale processing, build relationships with established manufacturers, and expand its agricultural footprint before bioplastics can become an affordable reality.