The news regularly reports on 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.