Hemp Plastic - Future of Sustainability
Henry Ford used hemp-and-sisal cellulose plastic to build car doors and fenders in 1941. On video Henry Ford demonstrated that his hemp cars were more resistant to blows from a sledgehammer than steel-bodied cars were.
The basic building block of plastics is cellulose taken from petroleum, but toxic petrochemical compositions are not the only way to derive plastics. Plastics can be derived from plant cellulose, and since hemp is the greatest cellulose producer on Earth (hemp hurds can be 85% cellulose), it only makes sense to make non-toxic, biodegradable plastic from hemp and other organics, instead of letting our dumps fill up with refuse. Hemp hurds can also be processed into cellophane packing material, which was common until the 1930s, or they may be manufactured into a low-cost, compostable replacement for Styrofoam.
A recent technological advance with biodegradable plastics made from cornstarch has led to a new material based on hemp. Hemp Plastics (Australia) have sourced partners who have been able to produce a new 100% biodegradable material made entirely from hemp and corn. This new material has unique strength and technical qualities which have yet to be seen before, and this new material can be injection or blow-molded into virtually any shape using existing moulds, including cosmetic containers, Frisbee golf discs, etc.
Zellform (Austrian) has created a hemp-plastic resin called Hempstone, for use in musical instruments, loudspeakers, and furniture. Hempstone can be carved in almost any shape making the number of applications unlimited.
Hemp is already being made into compressed door panel and dashboards. Carmakers such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, Saturn, BMW, Honda, and Mercedes are currently using hemp composite door panels, trunks, head liners, etc.
These hemp composites are less expensive than dangerous fiberglass counterparts. Hemp fiberglass replacements would only cost 50 to 70 cents a pound. These hemp composites could replace carbon and glass fibers, which have environmental and weight problems, and run from 60 cents to 5 dollars a pound.
The reason why virtually all European car makers are switching to hemp based door panels, columns, seat backs, boot linings, floor consoles, instrument panels, and other external components is because the organic hemp based products are lighter, safer in accidents, recyclable, and more durable.
The possibilities are endless with hemp plastics and resins, and bio-composites. Virtually any shape and purpose can be fulfilled by bio-composite plastics. Hemp plastics are already on the rise, it is only a matter of time before we will see the need to grow hemp in the United States to meet our demands.