SOURCE: Dave Burkey – for NHA
Plastic is use for thousands of items every day. Everything from toys, to food containers to car parts. Believe me, half of my car is plastic.
Plastic is usually derived from petroleum, oil which is a limited resource. Also another problem with this plastic is that after it is used and discarded, it will sit in a landfill, or end up in the ocean for another thousand years. It does not degrade very easily. Not to mention all the other harsh chemicals that are put into plastic.
Strides are being taken to solve this problem. New eco-friendly plastics and polymers are being made from plants and the best plant that plastic is being made from is Hemp. Plastic from hemp can be made into pretty much anything that plastic from oil can be made from. Hemp based plastic is also biodegradable. So when it is put into a landfill, it will decompose much faster than oil based plastics, possibly with in 5 years, as opposed to 1,000 years for oil based plastics.
There are many different types of hemp plastic; from standard plastics reinforced with hemp fibers, to a 100% hemp plastic made entirely from the hemp plant. The most common type of hemp plastics are those plastics which infuse hemp fibers. The benefit of infusing hemp fibers lies in that less plastic is used (less oil, less pollution) and a more durable, biodegradable product is created. Sometimes, the oil used in conventional plastics can also be replaced with renewable resource feedstocks including cellulose from hemp, microbially-grown polymers, or those extracted from starch. Hemp plastic can be five times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than polypropylene (PP) plastic. It also does not pose the health and safety risks associated with certain plastics that are reinforced with glass fibers. Hemp plastic has the ability of being implemented in standard injection molding machines with no modifications needed. Current research into this field has produced fire-retardant products in UL94 V-0, V-1, and V-2 grades. 1
The basic building block of plastics is cellulose taken from petroleum, but toxic petrochemical compositions are not the only way to derive plastics. Plastics can be derived from plant cellulose, and since hemp is the greatest cellulose producer on Earth (hemp hurds can be 85% cellulose), it only makes sense to make non-toxic, biodegradable plastic from hemp and other organics, instead of letting our dumps fill up with refuse. Hemp hurds can also be processed into cellophane packing material, which was common until the 1930s, or they may be manufactured into a low-cost, compostable replacement for Styrofoam.
A recent technological advance with biodegradable plastics made from cornstarch has led to a new material based on hemp. Hemp Plastics (Australia) have sourced partners who have been able to produce a new 100% biodegradable material made entirely from hemp and corn. This new material has unique strength and technical qualities which have yet to be seen before, and this new material can be injection or blow-molded into virtually any shape using existing molds, including cosmetic containers, Frisbee golf discs, etc.
Zeoform (Austrialia) has created a hemp-plastic resin called Hempstone, for use in musical instruments, loudspeakers, and furniture. Hempstone can be carved in almost any shape making the number of applications unlimited.
Hemp is already being made into compressed door panel and dashboards. Carmakers such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, Saturn, BMW, Honda, and Mercedes are currently using hemp composite door panels, trunks, head liners, etc.
These hemp composites are less expensive than dangerous fiberglass counterparts. Hemp fiberglass replacements would only cost 50 to 70 cents a pound. These hemp composites could replace carbon and glass fibers, which have environmental and weight problems, and run from 60 cents to 5 dollars a pound.
The reason why virtually all European car makers are switching to hemp based door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles, instrument panels, and other external components is because the organic hemp based products are lighter, safer in accidents, recyclable, and more durable.
The possibilities are endless with hemp plastics and resins, and bio-composites. Virtually any shape and purpose can be fulfilled by bio-composite plastics. Hemp plastics are already on the rise, it is only a matter of time before we will see the need to grow hemp in the United States to meet our demands. 2