The news regularly highlights the major pollution problems caused by plastics. The best option will always be the reduction at the source, but hemp still offers a less damaging alternative. The cellulose that makes up 77% of the stem can be used to make various types of composite materials. We have known this for a long time: in 1941, Henry Ford had already designed a car made of a plastic-producing plant that was 10 times stronger than steel …
The prohibition of hemp during much of the twentieth century considerably slowed the development of products. However, today’s techniques and the urgency of finding alternatives to petroleum-based products point to a great future for hemp-based plastics.
- Several automobile companies (including Mercedes and BMW) are already using hemp-based composite panels for the interior of vehicles to make them lighter.
- In 2010, a Canadian manufacturer unveiled an all-hemp composite electric car, the Kestrel.
- Composites made from hemp cellulose are also used to make park benches, garden furniture or rain boots.
- A Scottish company (Hemp Eyewear) exclusively offers a range of glasses made of hemp.
ADVANTAGES OF HEMP-BASED PLASTICS
- It comes from an ecologically and locally-grown plant that is easily renewable: the total opposite of fossil energies!
- Bio-based plastics are lighter than their competitors from the petrochemical industry. They are 20% lighter for the same technical performance. A lighter vehicle consumes less fuel and therefore releases less carbon dioxide (CO2), a major contributor to the greenhouse effect.
- Hemp fiber is recognized for its great strength, and brings this quality to the composites in which it is used.
- At the end of life, hemp plastics can be recycled or composted depending on their other components.
- There isn’t a wide range of completely compostable or biodegradable products available yet, but the industry is working towards it.