Hemp Can Literally Replace Plastic
Slated to become the commodity of the future, hemp can literally replace plastic in every way.
Industrialized hemp can be manufactured into fabric, paper, medicine, plastic and even a form of concrete. The versatile plant is grown and harvested faster than all other agricultural commodities. Hemp is more renewable and less costly for manufacturers to produce while also being easier on the environment. It can literally replace plastic in every way yet it seems companies that would benefit from using it have not caught up with the evidence.
Since its rescheduling from something federally illegal as outlined in the Controlled Substances Act of the Nixon administration, the cannabis industry as a whole has blossomed in its new freedom to grow. However, the market is still unregulated and lacks consistency in everything from legislation, pricing, and transparent labeling of products. All of which presents its own set of problems.
Hemp is the Commodity of the Future
Though hemp is slated to become the commodity of the future, there’s nothing new about using industrialized hemp like any other agricultural raw material. In fact, archeologists uncovered what they believe is the world’s oldest evidence of industrialization- a small piece of hemp fiber made thousands of years ago.
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was removed from the federal list of illicit substances and can once again be legally grown, harvested, and used for medicines and other goods after almost a century of prohibition. Prior to the Marihuana Stamp Act of 1937 the cannabis plant was very frequently used to produce common household materials and was widely prescribed by doctors for various ailments.
Our Founding Fathers grew it, and hemp was once a crop every farmer had to grow as mandated by the government. The first American flag was sewn together using hemp fabric and our constitution was written on it. If history really does repeat itself, we are long overdue.
What Are The Benefits to Using Hemp Based Plastics?
The benefits of switching to hemp based plastics are endless when you consider both the direct and indirect ways this one change would have, and not just the cannabis market. The plastics we have been using for years now have been linked to several negative health effects, including infertility and certain cancers. From a health standpoint, hemp plastics are safe for consumers than traditional plastics because they are non-toxic.
The environmental impact of using hemp plastic (if made with biodegradable polymers) is significantly less than non-biodegradable materials like petroleum based plastics which can take 1000 years or more to fully break down. It only takes hemp products three to five months to decompose, making it one of the most renewable resources on earth. In fact, as hemp grows, it can also help absorb toxic metals from our soil and reduce soil erosion.
Plus there’s an opportunity to create social equity when growers partner with indigenous communities to supply raw material in Fair Trade agreements. Consider how cannabis giant One World Pharma partners with the Popayan people of Colombia. OWP provides the seeds to the indiginous community who work the fields and later sell back raw hemp material to OWP exclusively, which helps the people of that region strengthen and maintain a healthy economic infrastructure.
What Products Can Be Made With Hemp?
Like the benefits of industrialized hemp, the list of products that can be made from it are nearly endless. Anything that can be made from traditional petroleum based products, can be made from hemp. In addition to replacing petroleum based plastics, hemp can easily replace many other commodities currently being used. From clothing to paper to food items and medicines, hemp is so versatile it can be used as an ingredient to treat sensitive skin and be used as a building material.
To better exemplify how incredibly versatile the hemp plant is, perhaps the best use of hemp was Henry Ford’s first model T was designed to to burn hemp fuel and was even constructed from hemp plastic. It was ten times more impact resistant than the steel used at the time.
Why Haven’t We Switched Back to Hemp Yet?
It may seem like a no-brainer to make the jump to hemp based plastics for manufacturers everywhere, but there are some hurdles the market must overcome before this happens. And it won’t be overnight.
The biggest obstacles to seeing 100% use of hemp based plastics is cost and infrastructure. Because hemp was illegal for farmers to grow until updates in the 2018 Farm Bill, little research has been done to find ways to make the process easier or more cost effective.
We also lack market regulations that will create the infrastructure needed to make hemp a consistently produced, repurposed, and competitively priced commodity. In addition, the fossil fuel industry is still largely supported by government subsidies, which the hemp industry is not. This makes it a cheaper option for companies who refuse to invest in renewable resources than pay full price for their raw materials.
Lastly, the budding industrialized hemp market is competing with lobbyists whose goals are swaying political decisions in favor of the fossil fuel manufacturing industry. That and the fact that nearly every other industry in the world sees industrial hemp as a threat to their bottom lines. Rather than embrace the most useful, safest and cost effective commodity on the planet to produce what they are already supplying, companies have been digging their heels in the soil that would ultimately grow the crop that could solve the world’s problems. Maybe not all, but some.