despite its almost limitless applications, from prosthetics to food packaging, plastic is a huge problem. just like we failed to predict that the combustion of fossil fuels for cheap energy would lead to an existential crisis, so too did we fail to foresee the environmental harm that would result from the ubiquitous adoption of plastic.
it pollutes our waterways, plagues our landfills, disrupts our health, and its production emits unfathomable amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
but it’s not all doom and gloom: there are more sustainable alternatives.
hemp, while by no means a fix-all in itself, is one such alternative.
due to its high cellulose content, hemp is particularly well-suited to the making of all kinds of materials - plastic included.
for instance, there are a number of companies around the world that have successfully manufactured bio-plastics out of hemp.
exciting research out of penn state university is also looking at adding hemp fibre to conventional plastic in order to cause it to break down over time. this would be huge, because at present, plastic doesn’t degrade at all; once it’s made, it’s here to stay.
the fact that we can make high-value sustainable materials out of hemp is nothing new though.
Henry ford even manufactured a prototype car out of hemp-based plastic. Since plastic is of course much lighter than steel, the cars were accordingly much more fuel efficient. However, the hemp car project reportedly fell by the wayside during World war 2 and was never resumed.
henry ford quote:
“why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which require ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields”