What is hemp plastic?
To understand hemp plastic, we first need to understand hemp. Hemp is one of the many names given to the Cannabis Sativa plant. Contrary to popular belief, hemp is not the same as marijuana, and actually has very little in common with it. Industrial hemp is grown for its long stalks and contains less than 0.5% THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive property of marijuana. Therefore, it is not possible to get "high" from hemp. Industrial hemp is grown in abundance in many parts of the world and produces the strongest natural fiber known to man. Hemp as a raw material is one of the most useful plants on our planet with thousands of applications including a viable plastic material!
Hemp plastic is a bioplastic made using industrial hemp. 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. Hemp plastic is recyclable and can be manufactured to be 100% biodegradable. 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. (Plastics Flammability Standards Explained)
Bio-based plastics and composites are already being implemented in a wide range of applications. The leaders of this plastic eco-movement are the automotive, packaging, and building industries. Estimates return a figure of about 500,000 tons a year of bio-plastic production and show two-digit growth in the European Union. Interestingly enough, the automotive industry is currently the biggest consumer of hemp plastic. Most of the plastic panels in foreign cars are made from hemp plastic due to its extreme strength and durability.
Take a moment and look around you right now. How many things do you notice that are made from plastic? The possibilities for hemp plastic are endless!