The planet is drowning under the weight of plastic and finally we are all waking up to this fact. Is the cannabis plant, in the form of industrial hemp plastic, a potential solution?
Hemp Plastic Solution?
Right now, plastic is a problem that won’t go away. Literally. That plastic package you tossed this morning will continue to exist for at least 500 years. Here are a couple of other inconvenient facts: According to Eco Watch we have already produced more plastic this century than we did in the whole 20th century, and 50% of the plastics we use as consumers are one-use only.
Depressing news? Yes it is. In some parts of the world, governments and people are trying to do something about the plastic problem, but radical problems need radical solutions… So let’s continue with (yet another) excellent common sense reason to embrace the cannabis plant.
Say the word ‘hemp’ and most non cannabis users will picture a hippy in a baggy shirt and trousers made from cannabis material. Well time to listen up! That image is soooo last century!
There are companies out there making hemp plastics and we predict that there will be many more arriving on the scene in the coming years. It is tough, cheap and has great eco qualities thanks to its biodegradable potential.
Hemp plastic is produced using cellulose extracted from hemp pulp and although it contains cannabidiol, it contains only the tiniest traces of THC (in America for example the legal limit of THC content is 0.3%!).
According to one of the leading industrial hemp companies in the USA, Hemp Inc, there are “over 25,000 different uses for the hemp plant.” As it is stronger than traditional plastic, hemp plastic materials are already widely used in the car industry and in construction.
However, it is domestic consumerism that is piling up the planet’s plastic mountain on a daily basis. A trip to the local supermarket reveals the shocking amount of single use plastic packaging used by companies in the food, toiletry and household sectors. Could hemp plastic halt the pile up?
A Very Brief History of Hemp
As you are probably aware, hemp has had a long and distinguished role in the history of mankind’s development – providing the basis for everything from rope to clothes and paper to the sails of the boats that discovered the world.
In years from now, students of history may well look back and ask “what happened?” as they learn about the decline of the hemp industry following the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act in the USA and the marihuana prohibition period that followed.
In the words of the immortal Jack Herer, writing in The Emperor Wears No Clothes, “If all fossil fuels and their derivatives, as well as trees for paper and construction were banned in order to save the planet, reverse the Greenhouse Effect and stop deforestation; then there is only one known annually renewable natural resource... and that substance is - the same one that did it all before - Cannabis Hemp... Marijuana!”
It could be that 2014 will be seen as the year when things changed. In that year, the US introduced the Farm Bill which legalized industrial hemp research. Since then, 19 US states have started looking at how growing hemp can provide a viable industrial alternative to petroleum derived material.
Elsewhere in the world, hemp production is up. Based on 2016 figures, China is leading the way (estimated to be producing 20% of the world’s hemp output) and Europe is also increasing production, encouraged by the EU.
Why is Hemp Plastic Not Being Used More?
Unfortunately, industrialized hemp is a new industry. Unlike other materials, such as plastic or paper, there is no established global hemp industry and therefore there is a lack of facilities and investment to research and develop hemp plastics on the industrial scale required.
What this seismic shift requires is a change in attitudes and it is consumers who can lead the way. What the environment needs right now is a new lobby of cannabis activists to campaign for a hemp inspired change!