It is a well-known fact that plastic is a large contributor to the world’s pollution problem. The oils in most plastic packaging have harmful additives that take hundreds of years to degrade. It is estimated that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Researchers, scientists, and environmentalists have been looking for alternatives to plastic that won’t pollute the Earth worse than we already have. Hemp is a possible contender.
What is hemp plastic?
Hemp has a percentage of cellulose that is extracted from the plant through hydrolization. Hot water is used to break down the molecules. Another way to yield the cellulose is to soak the material in acid which will break down the bonds and weaken it to the point where it won’t dissolved itself.
How it can help?
Hemp is biodegradable which is one of the biggest pros of hemp plastic. Regular plastic bags can take several centuries to fully degrade, where hemp plastic only takes three to six months. Though it cannot be used for all products due to its quick biodegrading, it can be purposed for single-use products. With more resources allocated to research and development, more ways can be found to implement hemp plastic into products.
The manufacturing of hemp plastic does far less damage to the environment than regular plastic manufacturing. Forbes Magazine states that plastics are made by extracting fossil fuels with fracking. Fracking is when deep rock formations are fractured with high-pressure liquids to remove the petroleum and natural gases inside. Though fracking is considered a clean method, it can still pollute the air, soil, and water supply with toxins.
What are the downsides?
Hemp has many benefits for the environment but has a few downsides that prevent it from being an option in the long-term and on a larger scale. Hemp production is not legal in all areas of the world and cultivators have to go through many processes to gain the ability to farm hemp. While hemp is cutting down on the pollution, its cost can be a large reason other plastics will remain widely used.
Hemp plastic could be the next step in creating a healthier environment. If more research is done on the subject and more people are willing to change the products they use, we could see a large change in the plastic pollution we see in the world today.