by Sophie Smith
It’s no secret that plastic pollution is rapidly destroying our planet. Plastic Oceans say
that of the 300million tonnes of plastic we produce every year, 50% of
it is single use plastic. And from all the world’s plastic produced, only about 9% of it has ever been recycled.
Plastic is not only an environmental hazard, it’s also a health
hazard. It’s estimated that 93% of Americans above 6 years of age test positive for a chemical called BPA
(bisphenol A). It’s been linked to cancer, infertility and diabetes to
name just a few. With this in mind, we have no choice as a planet but to
change the way we utilise plastics for the good of ourselves and our
environment. It’s possible to build with hemp, make clothes from hemp and benefit your health by eating hemp. So how can hemp help the plastic crisis?
Why Hemp Plastic?
Most plastic comes from fossil fuels, which are unsustainable and not
ecological. The foundations of these plastics are made up from a
substance called cellulose. It’s commonly found in plant cell walls to
help them stay strong. The cellulose in plastics comes mostly from
petroleum, which is harmful to human health and the wider ecosystem.
Hemp happens to be abundant in cellulose. But as well as being rich
in cellulose, it’s incredibly sustainable and biodegradable. This alone
makes hemp a better alternative to plastic. But how else can hemp
plastics benefit the environment?
1. Hemp plastic is biodegradable.
Plastic is literally everywhere in our day to day lives. We freely
use mass-produced items like shopping bags, tupperware, packaging and
drinks bottles. And most of the time without a second thought where they
One of the reasons plastic is so toxic is because of its long life. Even though they only take a few moments to use, plastics can take between 450-1000 years to decompose.
On the other hand, hemp plastics are completely biodegradable. They biodegrade in just 18 months
– a huge difference compared to conventional plastic. The fibres of the
hemp plant also make a much stronger material than regular plastic,
despite its lightweight nature.
Hemp plastics are also free from nasty chemicals like BPA and
petroleum, making the recycling process much cleaner. When regular
plastic is disposed of or recycled, it still leaks harmful chemicals into our environment. Hemp plastic avoids this completely.
2. Hemp plastic is not toxic.
So we’ve touched on how plastic is full of harmful chemicals like BPA
and petroleum. Found in most plastics and also in the lining of canned
foods, BPA is raising some serious health concerns. It is a known endocrine disruptor.
This means it interferes with the hormone systems in our bodies and can
actually act like the hormone estrogen. So why is this dangerous when
estrogen is found naturally in our bodies?
Well, too much estrogen can lead to development of cancerous cells in
the body, which have potential to become tumors. Endocrine disruptors
are linked to health problems such as cancer, fertility problems, birth defects and more.
Our environment is also harmed by endocrine disruptors, as they can get into our water and soil. When a lot of what we eat comes from the earth, it’s easy to understand how this problem can come back around to us full circle.
However hemp plastics do not contain endocrine disruptors like their
toxic rivals. Production of hemp plastics also doesn’t release nasty
chemicals into the atmosphere.
3. Hemp plastic can help save wildlife.
Plastic is polluting our oceans and landscapes at a worrying rate. Environmental educators ‘Ocean Crusaders’ say that our oceans contain 5.25billion pieces of plastic debris. Alarmingly, plastic is set to outweigh all of the fish in the ocean by 2050.
Plastic finds its way to the ocean and then exposure to sunlight breaks it down into tiny pieces. Fish and marine life end up consuming this plastic and it makes its way down the food chain.
It’s possible that for hemp plastic, we can create sustainable methods of recycling. We already know it’s non-toxic and biodegradable too. This is better news for our oceans as opposed to deadly chemical plastics which take thousands of years to biodegrade.
4. Hemp plastic causes less pollution.
By now you’ll have heard the damage that global warming is doing to
our planet. ‘The greenhouse effect’ is the term coined for the warming
of the earth due to rising carbon dioxide levels. This increase happens
as a result of the way we live our modern day lifestyles. A lot of it is
down to our use of fossil fuels.
Conventional plastic production uses chemicals like petroleum which are made from fossil fuels. This then contributes to the greenhouse effect.
Hemp plastic production has the opposite effect. It doesn’t leave us with lots of toxic byproducts. Growing hemp is healthier for the environment because it doesn’t need pesticides or fungicides. Hemp also sucks 4x more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than regular trees and turns it into oxygen.
It’s clear to see the many ways in which conventional plastic is
damaging to our environment and our health. Thankfully hemp plastic
shows great potential as a healthier alternative.
Hemp plastic is free from toxic chemicals, meaning it’s better for the health of us and the animals surrounded by it.
The production of hemp causes less pollution to the earth’s atmosphere, as well as the physical pollution we see in our oceans. It’s also biodegradable, which results in less damage to nature and our planet.
Ultimately, it’s up to corporations to take note and change their habits of mass production. It’s also important for us humans to spread the word and make conscious changes to our lifestyles which can benefit our planet.
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