Hemp laws have evolved dramatically across the United States in recent years. While the cultivation of commercial hemp has existed in uncertain legal space in many states, recent changes have encouraged the creation of many commercial hemp operations. While the market for cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products continues to grow, there are hundreds of potential commercial applications for hemp.
Part of the reason hemp has become such a popular commercial material is the wide variety of manufacturing purposes it can serve, some of which can potentially replace traditional manufacturing materials. One of the best outcomes of this growing trend is the discovery that hemp could serve as a viable alternative to plastic for things like water bottles and other disposable containers.
While plastic containers are often recyclable, there is a limit to how many times a piece of plastic can be effectively recycled, and the process of creating plastic for commercial use requires fossil fuel consumption. Choosing hemp instead of plastic for some business purposes could lead to very positive environmental outcomes. If you are wondering how we can replace plastic with hemp, you should know that this practice is already gaining popularity in many manufacturing operations all over the world.
How Can We Replace Plastic with Hemp?
Hemp is an incredibly versatile substance. In its plant form, it is one of the most durable natural fibers. The cellulose fiber in hemp can be manipulated in many ways, mimicking the way plastic is altered and shaped and offering similar performance with far less environmental impact. When it comes to how to make hemp plastic, the process is easier, safer, and more sustainable than current production methods for fossil fuel-based plastics.
How Is Hemp Plastic Made?
Hemp typically contains between 65% and 70% cellulose fiber, meaning it is perfect as a base material for all types of plastic products due to the chemical properties of cellulose fiber. The cellulose fiber is extracted, refined, and compressed into a bioplastic. While bioplastic made entirely from hemp is still somewhat rare, many manufacturing operations have started using bioplastics that contain hemp plastic as well as other natural materials. Using hemp as an alternative to plastic could eventually encourage many industries that currently use plastic made from fossil fuels to invest in more sustainable hemp cultivation.
Hemp Plastics: Pros and Cons
So, can hemp replace plastic? Hemp holds measurable potential as a viable ingredient in bioplastic fabrication, and it could eventually replace plastics made from fossil fuels. However, the transition from fossil fuel plastic to bioplastic made from hemp would be difficult for several reasons. A few of the drawbacks to hemp bioplastic is the time required to cultivate hemp crops, which would mean that large-scale hemp plastic manufacturing would likely take longer than typical plastic production.
Hemp plastic is biodegradable, but if it goes into a landfill, it will have a hard time biodegrading due to the surrounding refuse. Hemp plastics could also pose problems if they find their way into the ocean. Hemp plastic could be recycled at a composting center, but not everyone has access to these kinds of facilities. These drawbacks aside, the development of hemp plastic as an industry could hold some very positive outcomes for the world.
Upgrading and investing in commercial hemp cultivation and hemp plastic production operations could potentially curb reliance on fossil fuel plastics and the creation of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), one of the most common plastic substances used commercially today. The actual cultivation process of hemp is also very good for the environment.
An Ecologically Responsible Alternative to Plastic
Hemp has gained attention as a fantastic crop to cultivate, even for farming operations that do not specifically focus on commercial hemp cultivation. Hemp is incredibly easy to grow, and it rejuvenates the soil in which it grows. Farm owners could potentially lengthen the lifespan of their growing fields and produce healthier crops by rotating hemp crops through their organic patches, effectively rebuilding and enriching the soil with each crop.
Of course, when it comes to how we can replace plastic with hemp, many people will wonder whether hemp plastic is safer for the environment than typical plastic made with PET. While hemp plastics will require professional compost recycling, they are biodegradable and pose a significantly smaller threat to the environment than conventional plastics that clog landfills and eventually make their way into the sea.
Is Hemp Plastic Biodegradable?
Hemp plastic is biodegradable, compared to PET plastic that will never really decompose, only deteriorate into the ground. Hemp plastic biodegradable time is about six months before it has wholly decomposed. Whether bioplastic made from hemp goes into a trash collection site or it is professionally recycled, it is a much less harmful manufacturing option for the environment. While typical plastic can be recycled, the process for doing so involves some byproducts that are harmful to the environment.
Plastic Replacement with Hemp Already Gaining Traction
Companies across all industries all over the world have committed to more ecologically responsible operations and the exploration of sustainable alternatives to manufacturing practices that result in environmental harm. Organizations that manufacture products made of plastic or made with plastic need to evaluate whether hemp plastic is a viable alternative to PET and plastics derived from fossil fuels. In most cases, hemp is a more than suitable alternative, and it is already being used in the manufacturing of bottles, containers, car parts, bags, boats, electronics, and many other products.
This trend toward sustainable manufacturing is largely supported by the public, as Americans have grown more environmentally conscious in recent decades. Today, American consumers tend to prefer to do business with companies that display environmental responsibility.
Possible Future Benefits of Replacing Plastic with Hemp
It’s no secret that human activity, specifically manufacturing, has had a dramatic impact on the natural world. Plastic in the ocean is just one of the many environmental problems that a shift toward hemp plastic could potentially solve. By focusing on hemp cultivation instead of fossil fuel refinement for the creation of plastic, the earth would benefit from the entire hemp plastic lifecycle. From planting through use and recycling, hemp plastic poses virtually no harm to the environment, and encouraging the cultivation of hemp could improve soil and air quality, as well as reduce human dependence on the processes involved in fossil fuel plastic fabrication.
Of course, one of the most common questions people have when discussing the potential replacement of PET and fossil fuel plastic with hemp plastic and other bioplastics relates to performance. Can hemp plastic hold up reliably the way fossil fuel and PET plastic can? In short, yes. Hemp plastic is incredibly strong and durable, as it is derived from one of the strongest natural fibers. The hemp cellulose fiber used to create hemp plastic is incredibly durable and capable of promising a long shelf life for many products that might include it. While this shelf life may not be as long as PET and fossil fuel plastic, it is more than long enough to justify replacing many commercial plastic applications with hemp plastic.
Explore the Long-Term Benefits of Growing Hemp for Commercial Applications
The technology behind hemp plastic manufacturing may not be fully realized yet, and some operations may hesitate to shift their operations toward the inclusion of hemp plastic over fossil fuel plastic and PET. However, the long-term benefits of hemp plastics are clear. By encouraging the use of hemp plastic, this inherently supports further study into the practices of hemp cultivation and hemp plastic fabrication. Eventually, these processes will become easier to complete, more refined, and capable of producing better results.
Companies that embrace the potential of hemp plastic and other bioplastics will gain the respect and attention of an environmentally-conscious consumer base, and they can minimize the need to invest in environmentally harmful resource gathering procedures like fossil fuel refinement. More widespread cultivation of commercial hemp would mean richer soil quality that lasts longer, potentially reducing the need to clear wooded areas for more arable land.
Ultimately, yes, hemp plastic could one day replace PET and fossil fuel plastic in a wide range of commercial applications, and the benefits of doing so would be a dramatically positive change in the manufacturing world as far as the environment is concerned. If more companies start to consider hemp as an alternative to plastic, we could witness a drastic shift in manufacturing practices that lead to a wide variety of environmentally positive benefits without sacrificing much, if anything, in terms of plastic performance and quality.
The Boon Room is more than a website, brand or service. It’s an idea. It’s a project. It’s a mission. It’s a coming together of companies, investors, cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and inspired entrepreneurs who believe businesses need to look for ways to invest in sustainablity.