It’s exciting that, by its very nature, hemp is an environmentally-conscious plant. It grows fast, requires minimal water, and most often doesn’t need any fertilizers or harsh chemicals. It’s a plant with limited waste that takes its environmental concerns one step further. Hemp loves carbon dioxide. It can pull 10 tons, per acre, of this harmful gas out of the air, and it never sends it back. Hemp is one of the few plants that starts off doing good from the moment it starts growing.
This then opens the doorway for products that typically get a bad rap for their sustainability. With hemp, they can incorporate something that’s better for the world around us, often improving the original product. Top of that list is plastic, and yes, you can use hemp in its manufacturing.
Hemp plastic today
Hemp plastic comes from non-toxic, biodegradable hemp fibers. You’ll find both composite plastics and pure-hemp fiber plastics. Both of which have an extremely high tensile strength. Hemp plastic is stronger than steel and polypropylene.
Hemp plastics carry a lot of benefits, including:
- A favorable density to weight ratio means less product, by weight, does more. For example, creating the entire body of a car out of hemp.
- The sustainability of hemp as a raw material. It has a short decomposition period. It grows with little to no chemical help. It’s easy to recycle.
- A higher durability and flexibility than traditional plastics.
Each of these factors contribute to the worthiness of exploring the use of hemp within the plastic industry. But, it’s not a perfect substitute yet.
The sustainability factor
With so much of today’s plastic still designed as one-use, does hemp plastic really help when it comes to sustainability? It’s a valid question to ask. So much plastic is haphazardly tossed into the trash, or littered into your environment today. This has led to problems in our oceans, landfills, and even products we consume. Plastic waste is mismanaged in this country, even with recycling efforts growing over the last decade.
Hemp plastic is still plastic. It does contribute to the issue of single-use items. But, there’s one significant difference here, hemp plastic is biodegradable. Typical plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. Hemp plastic may move faster through its lifecycle, but only in the right conditions.
Breaking it down
Biodegradable hemp plastic will break down rapidly, within about 180 days, when placed under specific pressure and heat within an industrial-scale composter. The problem is that these giant machines aren’t lying around at every recycling center across the country. They’re actually uncommon in the United States. To make matters even more complex, these composters often get contaminated with non-compostable plastics. The process isn’t as efficient as it sounds.
Hemp plastic has a lot of sustainable potential. However, before we start jumping for joy about yet another use for this lucrative crop, systemic issues must change to make hemp plastic reach its maximum sustainability.
The future of hemp plastic
It’s unclear whether hemp plastic will make a big splash on the industry now or if it will take years to make it a sustainable alternative. Either way, keeping an eye on the many uses hemp can have can make you a better hemp farmer. Understanding that hemp is more than CBD will help you diversity how you use your crop, getting you the highest returns.
Nobody understands this better than Arbor Vita8. Our experience in the industry ensures we’re always prepared when it comes to hemp. For that reason, our focus is on creating superior hemp extracts and products regardless of their ingredients or use. We partner with our hemp farmers throughout the entire process to maintain quality from start to finish. Contact us today to learn more.