“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.” ~Charles Moore
The Pacific Ocean holds an estimated 343 billion billion gallons of seawater. Within this great body of mass lies an unimaginable quantity of plastics ranging from nanosized particles to car tires and not to mention copious amounts of waste products. These nearly indestructible items are found amassed together as floating islands in the middle of nowhere, to miniscule microbeads embedded into the insides of marine life. Nearly 30 percent of the world’s population survives on a seafood-based diet. Mankind is subject to digesting these very products and toxic chemicals which were created to make life all the more leisure. Let me not mention the direct impacts for life on land from the plastic products that we use and ‘dispose’ of. Now, may we jump ahead and fast forward past a few decades of human consumption, and we can surely find ourselves well beyond the acceptable threshold. It may come as a surprise to you, but is it not odd how the idea and application of bioplastics has been in existence for longer than most of us reading this passage have been alive?
A bioplastic is simply a plastic substance derived wholly or in part of an organic ¹biomass rather than the typical petrochemical base. Corn and sugarcane are the two most widely used feedstock to create bioplastics. As recent news has informed us on the federal legalization of hemp which was finalized by the President’s signature on the Farm Bill, this revelation will enable our country to once again rely on a once close ally. Hemp contains nearly 70% cellulose fibers from which plastics or bioplastics can be derived from. Not to mention the additional benefits of growing the plant as a crop, including reduced top soil erosion that strengthens existing ecosystems, and the fact that hemp produces twice the amount of fiber as cotton with less need for watering and less caustic pesticides needed, lowering costs for the modern American farmer.
As more funds can now be properly poured into research for hemp and other sustainable alternatives, may we expect greater production and uses in the near and not so distant future. Food and clothing, to vehicles and musical instruments can all contain structures derived from this plant. Organic compounds mixed together to create everyday products. In the past the major driving force for opting for petro-based plastics was of course, the price point. Moving forward we may infer that the benefits and availability of hemp-based sustainable bioplastics will be much more practical and economical. The industry is sure to enjoy a ‘boom’ era, that will undoubtedly shape the rest of our lives in this country and the world as whole.
The use of hemp-based or frankly any form of bioplastics may not be looked upon as a viable long-term solution for our problems, but it is surely a great leap in what may be the better direction for our world. Momentum only needs a push to get going, and we can only collect our ideas together and work diligently with the hope that the changes we desire to see, comes into existence.
Our one true human birthright may just be to give respect and love back to this land from which we rise and fall upon. It seems that long forgotten are the days before modern civilization, in which it seemed as if humankind had a better understanding of the world in which we have inherited. We have come to be part of this fabricated ecosystem in which we have created whilst not truly acknowledging our position amongst the other lifeforms of this place we call home.
As we reflect during this new year holiday, may we humble ourselves with all that has been bestowed to us no matter the respective circumstance. Life has righted its sails and steered its course into an age where technology molds our today, every single day. More cannot be said on the need for an alternative in the way civilization operates, but we must start somewhere, and that means this moment right now. The organic fight from within to have your voice heard and to give it your absolute all to see it through. Change comes from people like you and I daily, all you need is an adjustment of perspective and a bit of ambition. Follow this way if you must, and together we can reach a higher understanding of our place on this Earth and how we can adopt the ‘Leave no trace’ principle to the world over for generations to come.
~Dulian Alfonso Navarro, NHA Volunteer