By Hemp Cleans
Biodegradable plastics are not what you think, here you will learn the science in layman’s terms and it is still complex. Let’s come back to the soil on Earth for this article. Food containers, bottles, chips and candy wrappers and other short use packaging are a major proportion of polluting rivers, seas, forests and beaches; killing animals and fish, mutating turtles and birds, as the small particles of plastic fill the intestines and stomachs of all life, including humans…Yes, YOU.
Many people want to ban plastics, yet if you listen to what they are saying, they really just want to find a more sustainable way of packing and carrying items and in addition, some want to encourage recycling of all materials, the next bigger step. Put simply, we should have never started to use plastics for the short term disposable products. The reality is that there is no silver bullet to this problem.
“If you want to ban plastics it’s just a sign that you have no idea what they’re used for.”
-Miranda Marcus, Applications Engineer
Plastic is plastic, well not quite. Plastics are long-chain molecules which repeat their structures over and over and made of carbon-based polymers and they don’t mix well with nature. Theses polymers come from petroleum and cellulose materials, plants. It is a polysaccharide and hemp has about 50-60% celulose in the plant.
It may be possible one day in the future to be 100% closed loop system, but for now we must choose to be smarter about how we use plastics and how we reincorporate them back into uses, plastics never really just go away, so take action now.
Instead of using plastic for everything, we must recognize its use for specific things, and definitely not for food. We have a plastic continent in the Pacific which WE created in only 50 years.
Here is an impractical example of using “biodegradable hemp plastic” for water will NOT store for very long and if the water is not used in a short time the container will start to leak. This is where it shows that many people have not thought this through completely.
Let’s start the question with how do we REDUCE the use of plastics, not how to simply change a source material?
“Plastics are very long-lived products that could potentially have service over decades, and yet our main use of these lightweight, inexpensive materials are as single-use items that will go to the garbage dump within a year, where they’ll persist for centuries,” -Richard Thompson
THIS MUST STOP: “On average, we use plastic bags for 12 minutes before getting rid of them.”
This can simply be to stop using plastic for water storage and use. Grab a reusable bag when you go shopping. Buy loose produce. Stop using disposable razors or pens, instead, use refillable ones. If something breaks, you or someone else can repair it, this saves money on the purchase and creates a job for the repairs, like the “old times,” but really it is just common sense and logical.
You can choose to give the unwanted plastic items a new life by converting the use.
For new items, if we give the manufacturers a reason to reuse materials it will help by creating a market for recycled products. It is up to you to encourage a reason for more manufacturers to recycle.
“First Reduce, then repair, reuse again, and when you have to, recycle”
Good or even worse than we thought?
The answer is not a simple black and white answer, in fact there is a lot of gray in the mix.
A real FIRST STEP solution is to STOP using plastic for water. Installation of publicly accessible water filler stations (like the old water fountains) all over our communities, so we can refill our glass or metal, and even durable long term use plastic containers for reuse.
For many biodegradable plastics and bioplastics to start decomposing they need to be exposed to UV (ultraviolet) light or relatively high temperatures. This means that in some conditions, the bioplastics will still take many years to break down. And when they do, they will leave behind micro-fragments and toxic residues, which are still very harmful to nature.
Some biodegradable plastics will decompose and produce methane gas. This is still a very dangerous greenhouse gas that continues to add to environmental problems.
Bioplastics take food off peoples table and increase the cost of food. Many bioplastics are made from plants like corn and maize, but land that was used to grow food for the world, now is being used to “grow plastic” instead.
As of 2014, approximately 25% of US grain production was processed into biofuels and bioplastics production. By taking more agricultural land out of food production, we are seeing a significant rise in food prices which hurts the poorest people.
Growing crops to make bioplastics comes with the usual environmental impacts of intensive agriculture, including needed to fuel farm machinery, and water pollution caused by runoff from land where fertilizers are used in industrial quantities. In some cases,
The indirect impacts from “growing” bioplastics are actually greater than if we simply made plastics from petroleum in the first place. This is because of the greenhouse emissions from the additional petroleum used, as well as the additional pollution of the agricultural runoff with industrial fertilizers.
Here are a few reasons as to why we can’t make all plastic products out of hemp:
Because you could kiss goodbye to great swathes of the planet’s biodiversity in order to farm enough to process it into a bio feedstock for plastics.
Because the end product will not have the barrier properties or the correct flexibility and tensile strength for every packaging, electrical and automotive application – though it may for some.
Because the plastics already used to package everything from paracetamol to life-saving blood for transfusions have been tested to the high standards medical grade polymers have to meet in order to be marketable.
“We used to live totally fine without plastics”
Bioplastics, such as PLA, are made from genetically modified corn and we do not know what the GMO’s will do to the environment in the long run.
Ironically, bioplastics and biodegradable plastics cannot be easily recycled, because it is very difficult for the average person to visually separate PLA and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) . The problem arises when the two are mixed up in a recycling bin, the mixture becomes impossible to recycle and the use of PLA may actually undermine our efforts to recycle plastics.
So many are confused about “bioplastic,” “biodegradable,” and “compostable” meaning the same thing, but there is a major difference between them. Confusing terminology hampers public understanding, which makes it almost impossible for consumers to understand the issues and make positive choices when they shop.
Suggestions for shifting
Wax paper and parchment are great to use for food storage and when you know how to properly fold the paper, it can store food for a long time.
Plastic wraps are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and will take hundreds of years to break down, and even then it is just smaller pieces of plastic which get into the life-cycle of many animals.
These plastics contain diethylhexyl adipate, which acts as a endocrine disruptor which has been linked to breast cancer in women and low sperm counts in men.
As mentioned above, heat accelerates the leaching of chemicals from the plastic into food and drinks. If you choose to reheat your plastic-wrapped food in a microwave, you will have a greater risk of serious health issues, including the possibility for cancers, decreased fertility, and harmful fetal development.
Hold yourself accountable
Hold the manufacturers accountable and enact legislation where companies would be required to list the real chemical composition of the plastic wrap.without this information the manufacturer is putting your health at risk.
Try Using: Glass containers (Mason or Kerr Jars), wax paper, parchment paper, dishcloth, reusable Bee’s wrap (cotton muslin cloths which are dipped in beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin is seals well and is anti-bacterial), plantain leaves and other replacements for changing your habits.
P.S. Just don’t use plastic if you don’t need it.
Since there is often confusion when talking about bioplastics, let’s clarify some terms.
While the biodegradability of bioplastics is an advantage, most need high temperature industrial composting facilities to break down and very few cities have the infrastructure needed to deal with them. As a result, bioplastics often end up in landfills where, deprived of oxygen, they may release methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
When bioplastics are not discarded properly, they can contaminate batches of recycled plastic and harm recycling infrastructure. If bioplastic contaminates recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate, the most common plastic, used for water and soda bottles), for example, the entire lot could be rejected and end up in a landfill. So separate recycling streams are necessary to be able to properly discard bioplastics.
The land required for bioplastics competes with food production because the crops that produce bioplastics can also be used to feed people. The Plastic Pollution Coalition projects that to meet the growing global demand for bioplastics, more than 3.4 million acres of land—an area larger than Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark combined—will be needed to grow the crops by 2019. In addition, the petroleum used to run the farm machinery produces greenhouse gas emissions.
Bioplastics are also relatively expensive; PLA can be 20 to 50 percent more costly than comparable materials because of the complex process used to convert corn or sugarcane into the building blocks for PLA. However, prices are coming down as researchers and companies develop more efficient and eco-friendly strategies for producing bioplastics.
We MUST be very careful of spreading Non-science to the new hemp industry. We have seen other hemp sites full of nonsense and words like:
“Believe me, half of my car is plastic.” Believe them with no science?
“the best plant that plastic is being made from is Hemp” Source please?
“Hemp based plastic is also biodegradable.” This is not always true, it depends on the type of plastic.
“it will decompose much faster than oil based plastics” Source please and what kind of plastic are they referencing?
“possibly with in 5 years, as opposed to 1,000 years for oil based plastics.” Source please?
“The basic building block of plastics is cellulose taken from petroleum” Please look up where cellulose comes from.
“it is only a matter of time before we will see the need to grow hemp in the United States to meet our demands.” Please see reference to scale above.