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How Hemp Plastic Can Change The World

Posted by Tom Lingeman on

A fake yellow light bulb with a black background

 

How Hemp Plastic Can Change The World

What is considered to be the greatest invention ever, while also being the most damaging?

The answer is: plastic. If you were thinking of another invention, then let me change your mind. Think about how often you use plastic made products on a daily basis.

You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is get dressed with clothing made from synthetic fibers: polyester, nylon, or acrylic (all plastic based). Next, you brush your teeth using a toothbrush made from plastic and toothpaste held in a plastic tube.

Then, if you are responsible, you floss with dental floss made from waxed-coated nylon string held in yet another plastic container. And if you love to style your hair, well… that’s plastic too. 

Next, you may make some coffee; either with a plastic Keurig cup or ground coffee held in a plastic jug. If you’re like me you bring your lunch to work, using reusable plastic containers. Finally, you grab your car keys with a plastic fob - the clicker.

That’s a lot of plastic and you still haven’t left the house yet. That’s a lot of plastic that will eventually be thrown into the trash; which will eventually make its way to a landfill; eventually making its way into our water supply. 

 

An ocean sunset and a littered beach.

The Problem With Plastic Waste

We all share the same image when we think about plastic pollution; we see something similar to the picture above. Images like those are easy to get angry at, easy to see the damage that is being talked about. It’s visible, right there in front of your face; you cannot ignore it any longer.

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It is estimated that only 9% of the plastics we use gets recycled. Conflate that fact with another estimation, one based on the studies done by Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization. They state that we dump upwards of 441 pounds of plastic into our oceans and seas every second.

This roughly adds up to roughly 8 million tons of plastic waste created each year. According to The Guardian, since the 1950's, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. It’s no wonder why 73% of the litter found on our beaches is from plastic objects. 

But, this isn’t the major problem with plastics. To me, the bigger issue comes from the realization that when plastic breaks down, it doesn't just disappear into nothing, it creates nanoplastics. Nanoplastics are defined as: particles, no more than 5 millimetres long, resulting from the degradation of plastic objects. They are very real, but we cannot prove their existence with alarming photos. 

What we cannot see is these nanoplastics sinking to the bottom of our ocean and sea floors, creating an expansive coating of debris. This debris is contaminating everything, and I do mean that literally.

The fish we eat are infected with these plastics; using the Flathead Grey Mullet as an example, 60% of these fish had microfilaments found inside its stomach when caught.

Studies have shown that microplastics may contain toxic additives that are harmful to us, some reports even show them to be carcinogenic. But that’s fine, it's only estimated that the average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year. 

If you're thinking, “So what? I don’t eat fish.”; well, you’re not out of harm's way. Drinking tap water can introduce around 4.8 plastic fibers per cup. Even drinking bottled water can lead you to ingestion nearly twice as many plastics per serving. This is a major problem facing any creature on this planet who needs water to survive. Thankfully, we do have some solutions. A blue recycling bin filled with paper and a glass bottle.

What Hemp Can Do To Help With Plastic Waste

Stop using so much plastic. It’s an easy statement to make, it’s a hard rule to follow. Plastic is such an important part of our lives, we use it for nearly everything. It is difficult to just stop using plastic entirely. We now know to avoid the single use plastic items: grocery bags, K-cups, and utensils. These are great changes to make, but it won’t fix everything. 

The change we need to make will have to come from corporations. It is up to them to stop producing plastic products, to find an alternative. An alternative like, you guessed it: hemp. Hemp can, and needs to be, used as an alternative to the crude oils and coal that are currently being used to make plastic. 

The major component to the creation of plastic is cellulose, which is currently being obtained from petroleum - a crude oil. How we choose to get this cellulose us the key to making the switch from crude oils to hemp.

Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer found on Earth; an organic compound that forms the cell walls, the structure of the plant. Cellulose is what gives plastic its durable and malleable essence. Plastic made from hemp is considered to be stronger, more durable and less likely to break. 

The reason why using  hemp is so important is because the plant is around 65-70% cellulose. For a better understanding of what that means, wood is 40% and cotton is 90%. So, why not cotton then? Because it requires more water to grow and takes longer to yield, but we have been over this before

Now, let’s briefly discuss the three obvious reasons why we should be using hemp to make plastic; 

  • We can grow it. We all know the dangers of relying on fossil fuels; with hemp we can eliminate one of our many dependencies on these depleting resources.
  • It is biodegradable. Hemp plastic takes 6-14 months to completely degrade into nothing.
  • Hemp plastic is nontoxic. It will not invest our water supply with toxic, possibly carcinogenic chemicals.

    So, are there any companies currently paving the way for hemp-based plastics?


    The universal symbol for recycle but with plastic water bottles.

    Companies Helping Reduce Plastic Waste Through Hemp Production

    Yes. There are some great companies out there who have made it their mission to create a cleaner planet. They want to turn our focus away from harmful plastics made from crude oils towards safer plant based hemp plastics. 

    Sana Packaging and Dama Distributing are two companies that are trying to reduce the amount of plastic material being used in the cannabis world.

    . They are changing the way cannabis is being packaged and sold to us. Instead of using single-use containers to distribute CBD or weed, they are using 100% plant-based hemp plastic. 

    Dama Distributing has the same concept in mind, with one small difference. That being, they don’t offer any products made from plastic that has been pulled from the ocean and recycled into a new product. Other than that, they essentially provide the same products with the same message: to reduce the amount of plastic in the world of cannabis. 

    Then you have companies like The Hemp Plastic Company who take a different approach to eradicating plastic waste. They are more interested in selling the resource, rather than selling any specific product.

    The Hemp Plastic Company turns their focus on making sure other companies are using the proper resources necessary to manufacture environmentally friendly products. 

    Drihp is a clothing line that sells eco friendly clothes made from hemp. A large portion of the micro-fibers that contaminate our water supply come from the fibers that break off from our clothes during the wash cycle.

    Another company who is helping the cause is: Bogobrush. They are out here making sustainable toothbrushes made from recycled plastics. Now they are not using hemp specifically, but it's still important to note any company who is geared at being environmentally friendly.


    A cartoon image of a healthy ocean on the left, a dead ocean on the right.

    Will America Make The Switch To Hemp-Made Plastics? 

    It’s a dark world we live in. The future of this planet looks bleak and uncertain. That is if we stay on this path, the path of global destruction. Plastics are everywhere and are constantly being produced. The demand for them has not gone down and it seems as though it never will. Everything you own has some piece of it made from plastic: clothes, car, dental products, cups, TV, etc. 

    The world will never come together to end its addiction to plastic. All of our waterways will clog from this addiction. Blocked with dense mounds of plastic, these veins will no longer pump life into the heart of this planet. Soon, we will reach this point of no return. Poised to reap the very destruction we created only 70 years ago. Earth: killed from plastic, destroyed by people. 

    Or… maybe we do break the habit. It has to start with one. One person who picks up trash while you are out walking your dog; Who knows, maybe the people you pass along the way will be inspired to do the same.

    Maybe these people buy their next shirt from a clothing line that uses organic Eco-friendly fibers. Who inspires their friends to buy a Filtrol filter for their washing machine to reduce the amount of synthetic fibers that would have otherwise ended up in our water.

    There are a lot of things one can do to help out the cause. It’s going to be tough, some of the small things in your life will change, but in the end, it will be worth it.

     

    On plastic: “An incredible substance for our economy, the worst substance possible for our environment” - Andrew Forrest, CEO of Fortescue Metals Group; environmental leader.

     

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