Hemp Plastic: 5 Advantages for Biodegradable Products

Someone once said how destructively remarkable it is that the human race creates extremely long-lasting products that not even Mother Nature can digest.

The first plastic prototypes were created in the 1860s as a material that would revolutionize the everyday lives of human beings. At that time, billiard balls were made from the ivory tusks of elephants. 

Ivory billiard balls, and other everyday products made from horns and tortoise shells, were coming into short supply. This was due to the growing population, increasing supply-demand, and the rapidly depleting reserves of wild animals and durable natural substances used to make everyday products.

So, the first plastic prototype was created to solve these problems.

Plastic 

Plastic was initially conceptualized as a resource substitute for a world where finite natural resources couldn’t meet the demand for the new products humanity would need in the burgeoning industrial revolution.

The word “plastic” originally meant “pliable” and “easily moldable.” Plastic was the first artificial product that did not contain any finite materials like wood, stone, ivory, metal, tusk, bone, horn, etc.

Plastic is now used to make everyday products we take for granted, like hair combs, toys, utensils, containers, bottles for food and grooming products, garbage bags, utensils, straws, and so on.

However, plastic and plastic-derived products never naturally biodegrade. Plastic products could take anywhere between a few years to over 600 years to biodegrade. And some plastic products will never biodegrade

There are some plastic products that could conceivably last for millions of years. Trash islands of plastic and microplastic debris have been polluting Earth’s oceans since the 1960s. And the fish we eat are progressively consuming more plastic every year.

One solution for the non-biodegrading problem of plastic is for the world to transition to hemp plastic. Here are five advantages of biodegradable hemp plastic products.

But firstly, what is hemp plastic?

Related: 10 Longest Lasting Items in Our Landfills

What is Hemp Plastic?

Hemp plastic is a natural and non-toxic biodegradable plastic that is created from the fibers of hemp plants. 

Hemp plastic is a biodegradable polymer constructed from the lipids and cellulose found in the seeds and stalks of any species of Cannabis plants.

The cellulose found in hemp is then broken down and chemically reconstructed into a composite bioplastic that is 100% biodegradable. And hemp plastic features a tensile strength that is much higher than that found in the plastics derived from fossil fuels.

Additionally, the viability of hemp as a plastic substitute is not a new idea. 

In 1941, Henry Ford created a vehicle made from a hemp composite that was ten times stronger than steel. The car’s panels were made of a hemp, straw, resin, and cellulose composite that was constructed via a high-pressure hydraulic molding process. 

Ford even took an ax to the vehicle to show its strength. And no, the hemp car wasn’t dented.

And Ford’s hemp car could be fueled with either vegetable oil or hemp-derived oils, or biofuel. The only part of the car made of steel was the vehicle’s frame.

The hemp car didn’t take off because fossil fuel cars became the car industry standard. And as previously mentioned, modern nonbiodegradable plastics are derived from fossil fuels.

Now, here are five advantages of biodegradable hemp plastic.

5 Advantages of Hemp Plastic

Biodegradable and Recyclable

As previously mentioned, plastic products can take centuries or millions of years to biodegrade. And plastic doesn’t decompose since plastic is a synthetic creation.

Plastic products don’t “biodegrade” as they slowly wear down due to the elements over hundreds of millions of years.

And contrary to popular belief, most plastic is not recycled, even when local governments mandate it. 

Recycling plastic is a cost-prohibitive process since there is so much of it in existence. It would cost $140 billion to recycle less than 40% of the plastic dumped in the ocean annually now.

So, most plastic is “downcycled.” 

In other words, most plastic is downcycled into other products, like synthetic carpet fibers or car components. And downcycling doesn’t solve the non-biodegrading problem.

Technically, plastic can be recycled, but it is expensive since too much of it exists. Hemp plastic can be recycled indefinitely.

Eco-Friendly

About 150 million metric tons of plastic pollute the Earth’s environments, especially its oceans. Over 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually.

By 2040, over 30 million metric tons of plastic may be dumped into the ocean annually if current trends don’t change.

And less plastic waste needs to be dumped into the ocean now. Hundreds of species of fish are progressively ingesting more micro-particles of plastic annually.

In a few short decades, the fish that human beings consume may contain more plastic than organic parts.

Additionally, many plastics contain toxic chemicals that can be transferred to the environment and become a deadly health issue to humans.

Hemp plastic is infinitely more eco-friendly than plastic.

Hemp plastic won’t biologically invade fish. And hemp plastic isn’t toxic.

And hemp doesn’t produce carbon dioxide while it’s decomposing so that it won’t contribute to global warming.

Durability and Strength

Even though hemp plastic decomposes in less than 200 days, it is still more robust and durable than most traditional plastic products.

Hemp plastic products are almost four times more durable and five times stronger than traditional plastic.

Hemp plastic is flexible and resistant to everyday wear-and-tear. 

And as Ford’s 1941 hemp car exhibition and ax display showed, hemp composite plastic is stronger than steel.

Economic 

The global hemp industry is currently worth $4.7 billion. And that estimate is projected to increase to $27.7 billion by 2028. 

And the world is preparing to transition its fossil fuel infrastructure over to renewable energy by 2050 at the earliest.

The world will run out of viable oil within this century. And the profit incentive to manufacture plastic as a fossil fuel by-product will also lessen as a result.

The economic advantages of investing in hemp plastic will only become more apparent with the decline of fossil fuels.

Lighter Mass

Producing, transporting, and delivering lighter hemp plastic is more cost-efficient than relatively heavier traditional plastic.

Hemp fibers are a lot cheaper to use in plastic than the chemicals and synthetics used in plastic. Hemp fibers are lightweight while still being denser than plastic.

Related: States With Promising Single-Use Plastic Bans

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