Article by Paul Benhaim
What hemp is.
Hemp is a variety of non-drug cannabis grown legally in many countries around the globe. China has been the largest producer of hemp until recent years when Canada and Australia are rapidly catching up. Plastics are defined as "substances that can be moulded". Usually, 'plastic' refers to petro-chemical based compounds. Oil is the basis for most plastic production and is an unfortunately limited world resource. Hemp plastic can therefore simply be defined as 'any mouldable substance that uses hemp as a composite'.
Hemp plastic was discovered by Henry Ford. There is a well known pic/video of Henry Ford hitting a model-T with an axe and the axe head rebounding was a ways of demonstrating the potential for plastics based on composite fibre. The exact nature of the material is not known.
Polypropylene has characteristics that have made it the most common plastic in use today. The initial product manufactured from hemp plastic was the 'High-Fly" Frisbee. Annual plastic consumption around the globe has increased from somewhere around 5 million tonnes in the 50's, to a huge 100 million tonnes in recent years. A single tonne of plastics produces 20,000 2 litre drink bottles or 100,000 carrier bags. A household dustbin today contains around 7% plastic.
Apart from fibre production, PP is mostly used for injection moulding. However, PP blended with hemp fibre - despite improving the tensile strength and heat resilience of the plastic - is a generally more expensive choice.
From 2011, larger new production facilities have allowed for the manufacture of hemp reinforced PP, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and PolyLactic acid (PLA) in a more cost-efficient process. Commonly, the hemp proportion of the plastic can be from 50% (the usual blend) up to 80% in some materials. Using PLA as a base for hemp plastic produces a 100% biodegradable product.
Hemp plastics in their various forms can be used to manufacture:
Water supply materials
Many other household items
If PC/ABS, PP reinforced glass-fibre and heat-resistant ABS materials are required, hemp provides a lower cost composite material with superior attributes. Flame retardant hemp plastic is easily manufactured with the benefit of requiring fewer toxic additives than in regular plastic manufacture. New developments have allowed the blending of rice starch and blow moulding techniques are currently being developed. With the manufacture of plastic bags and bottles out of hemp plastic a prospect for the near future. Currently, corn starch is the source for this type of plastics production.
Hemp plastic granules are a relatively new resource, the hemp industry is set to expand significantly as a result - especially with respect to the ever increasing price of oil and its reducing availability - hemp crops are sustainable with production prices stable. Our reliance on oil and overproduction of CO2 are two ways in which the use of hemp plastics can help avoid world pollution problems.
Hemp plastic products can be made with the same injection moulding machinery as conventional plastics. To see a product made from 100% hemp, visit www.hempplastic.com and see the didgeridoos there. This material is very strong and contains no resins or glues. The commercial potential for these patented innovative plastics has not yet been discovered. The near future may bring vehicles that can resist strong impacts, like the model-T that Henry Ford swung an axe at all those years ago.
More on hemp plastics: www.hempplastic.com
17 Aug 2011
Article/Information supplied by Paul Benhaim
Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.