Graphic by Amanda Schultz

The future of plastic: Hemp

The cannabis industry is adding to the plastic pollution epidemic through the numerous layers of required yet redundant cannabis packaging

Packaging is ingrained in our lives in some form or another. Whether it’s packaging for food, mail orders or gadgets it’s all very excessive and often made from non-recyclable plastics. Another contributor to the plethora and plight of plastic packaging pollution is pot.

The cannabis industry is adding to the plastic pollution epidemic that’s choking our planet with chemicals and micro-plastics through the numerous layers of required yet redundant cannabis packaging.

If you’re 21 and up, chances are you’ve tried legal marijuana in California, whether it’s from a dispensary or elsewhere. Have you ever noticed the amount of packaging a couple buds requires?

The January 2018 enactment of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, brought new regulations on the way dispensaries must package their products. Childproof resealable bags and prescription pill-like bottle caps have been implemented in addition to individual cannabis cultivator and distributor packaging.

Unfortunately, aspects of waste weren’t considered in the packaging portion of Prop 64.

All the layers of brand and protective packaging are an immense and detrimental waste, but an alternative may save the day, if only used ubiquitously.

That alternative, hemp-made plastics.

Hemp plastics are non-toxic, biodegradable, durable and versatile. There are even food and pharmaceutical-grade hemp plastics out in the market.

Hemp itself is a variant of the Cannabaceae family, which houses the psychoactive Sativa and Indica plants as well as the low-THC-producing Cannabis Ruderalis.

The main difference hemp has over cannabis is, of course, the lack of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These cannabinoids are what make Cannabis Sativa and Indica drug-producing plants, whereas hemp isn’t valued for psychoactivity and medicinal aspects since it has none.

Hemp is still highly practical. Like its THC-containing cousins, hemp grows relatively quickly and can be harvested for use after four months. In comparison to the cultivation of cotton, hemp needs about 50 percent less water to grow.

When it comes to the decomposition of hemp plastics versus traditional plastics, there’s no competition. It takes an average plastic bottle roughly 450 years to decompose whereas hemp plastic can biodegrade within six months, given the proper environment.

Hemp has long been a valued production plant as it’s fibers are strong and can create fabric, paper and concrete.

Industrial hemp has woven itself in and out of the United States’ history since the Colonial Era when citizens were legally required to cultivate hemp as part of war efforts.

The U.S. government previously recognized hemp as distinctly different than marijuana. However, since the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, industrial hemp has substantially withered. While it’s still used for small scale production, it isn’t being used to its full potential.

Plastics from hemp can make anything from homes, cars, toys, electronics and cosmetics. The opportunities for hemp plastics don’t end at cannabis dispensaries. Why can’t hemp-made plastic be the new plastic?

If one tiny portion of our oil use is diverted away from the production of traditional plastics and replaced with hemp the reverberation of that change can make a sizable impact to prevent further plastic pollution.

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  1. Zach Bradshaw Zach Bradshaw Friday, April 19, 2019

    Hemp is consider any cannabis plant that doesn’t contain over 0.3% THC. A lot of hemp grown is for CBD.

  2. Kevin Kevin Wednesday, April 24, 2019

    Bravo! Great Article! The time has certainly come. The Hemp Plastic Company agrees. We have reduced plastic pollution down to a design decision with renewable, sustainable, compostable hemp plastic. We make it with up to 100% vegetable material~ Yes~ NO FOSSIL FUEL IN THE FORMULA AT ALL. Manufacturers can now choose. Every ounce of hemp we use, is an ounce of raw, crude oil based plastic we did NOT use. Thanks for a great article

  3. Cosmos Angie Cosmos Angie Monday, October 17, 2022

    So maddening…watching petroleum plastics kill wildlife & destroy ocean habitat…all the ideas by so many smart people but cannabis is never even mentioned…maddening. Also, the documentary I’m watching says the 1000 yrs. it takes to breakdown plastics from petroleum is very misleading…the breakdown of the petroleum plastics becomes micro-plastics ..we merely cannot see them but they will still be in our environment getting into the bodies & life of this planet. Politicians keep people focused on smoking cannabis so we will not know all of the good this miracle plant is capable of. .3 percent hobbling of cannabis is merely a money making ploy to further hobble the most useful plant known to exist.

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