Kevin Tubbs, founder of Hemp Plastic Company, sees bioplastics among the "green" protagonists of the near future.
His company specializes in flexible bioplastic packaging containers made from hemp processing by-products.
"We expect to lead the market in hemp bioplastic," says Tubbs. "There is a lot of waste in heart crops and hemp oil. That's why I started experimenting with waste products: I make building hemp and bioplastics from them."
Bioplastics, a clean way to go
La bioplastic, meaning any plant-based plastic, biodegradable, or both, replaces the fossil-based carbon in plastic with carbon from renewable sources such as corn or hemp. Tubbs, which now produces around 450 tons of bioplastic per week, is confident that hemp bioplastic will overtake petroleum-based raw polymer in the coming decades.
How to make bioplastic from hemp? Thanks to a confluence of consumer demand for more sustainable goods, business initiatives and reduced production costs, bioplastics production is ready to take off. By 2020, it is expected that bioplastics will control 5% of the plastics market, rising to 40 percent by 2030, According to an important study of Grand View Research. In this scenario, hemp bioplastic can really have its say, especially in terms of flexible packaging in plastics and bioplastics.
Tubbs advises potential investors to think about commodity costs. “When the price of oil rises, look at the cost of bioplastic. Take a ton of raw polymer and compare it to a ton of hemp raw material: hemp is always cheaper. "
It has very unusual characteristics for a plant. It is really tough. And then industrial hemp, a cannabis variety that contains less than 0,3% of the psychoactive compound THC, works well as a raw material for bioplastics for other reasons as well: it grows well in most soils with little chemical fertilizer or pesticides.
It grows rapidly, absorbing a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, from germination to harvest. That carbon is then transformed into the high cellulose content needed for bioplastic production, about 65 to 70% of hemp biomass.
In comparison, wood contains 40 percent cellulose, linen has 65-75 percent.
Only cotton contains more, up to 90%: however, cotton requires 50% more water to grow than hemp and four times more water to process it.
Yet cotton, corn and wood are legal, hemp is opposed.
The cultivation of hemp of any kind was outlawed in 1937 (the ban was only lifted during WWII to supply essential raw materials). Importing hemp became legal in 1997 and demand for hemp hearts, hemp milk, hemp protein powders, hemp-based cosmetics and extracted oils, as well as sustainable clothing, fabrics and bioplastics, has grown. steadily ever since.
Bioplastics are developed to work with existing equipment for 3D injection molding. They possess the versatility of petroleum-based plastics. They can form virtually any type of packaging, piece of furniture, medical equipment, and more.
Bioplastics require neither new infrastructure nor the development of new technologies.