HEMP AS A SOURCE OF PLASTICS
Traditionally, plastic is made out of the cellulose obtained from petroleum; however, this toxic and environmentally unfriendly way to make it is not our only option. It is possible to produce plastic that is stronger, and that is biodegradable from plant cellulose. Which plant on this planet is the highest producer of cellulose?
Hemp of course.
Hemp stalks consist of 85% cellulose, meaning it is prime for supplying the plastic industry; not only this, but hemp can be grown pretty much anywhere, with great ease, in an extremely fast time frame. This makes hemp a perfect choice as a renewable source of plastic; and because it is biodegradable it does not remain in landfills for the hundreds of years that petroleum based plastic does. Hemp plastic can even be used to produce such items as cling-film and Styrofoam – it is extremely versatile.
Henry Ford, the car maker, was famously documented producing a car with a hemp plastic body. Through his demonstration he proved that it was 10 times stronger than its steel counterpart, was cheap and safe to produce and was “grown from the soil”.
Hemp prohibition has led to the decline of hemp as a source for plastics, but it has not fallen completely out of use. As industry is now clambering to find more sustainable sources of material, more and more companies and scientists are turning back to hemp for the answers. Technological advances have allowed the Australian company Hemp Plastics to produce a 100% biodegradable, strong plastic from hemp and corn. New technologies mean it is also easy to produce hemp plastics in any shape, making it viable to roll out and replace current way we mass produce containers etc.
The car industry is also heading back towards hemp! BMW, Chrysler, GM, Ford, Honda and Saturn all now use hemp plastics in their door panels, trunks lids, head liners etc, with more and more uses being implemented in their cars with each passing model. Why are car manufactures turning back to hemp? It is simple, hemp plastic is lighter, stronger, safer in an accident and cheaper to produce. We would not be surprised, especially with the rolling legalization of cannabis in America, if we see hemp taking a much more prominent role within the plastics industry, as more farmers are legally able to grow it.
The possibilities that hemp based plastics, resins and composites offer are endless. It can, and will, help the world move away from the dependance on oil as it begins to run out. It will result in a safer, greener world that is not held in the hands of oil barons. This will take time though, industry is heavily reliant on oil, and making an instant switch would be devastating to reliant industries and the world economy. Industries have to make a gradual switch over in the way that the car industry is, transferring the power to hemp from oil. We can expect a lot of resistance to come from oil based lobbying groups, but the switch is inevitable – oil is running out.
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