Henderson Island (pictured above) is an uninhabited island in the southern hemisphere of the Pacific Ocean. It is approximately halfway between New Zealand and Chile, and is uniquely untouched by humans. Or, so it was thought until researchers at the University of Tasmania visited the island to observe its shorelines. In 2017, the researchers found over 38 million pieces of plastic on the shores of Henderson Island. That’s 617 pieces of plastic waste per square meter.
While Henderson Island is believed to be one of the worst affected by plastic pollution, it is certainly not the only marine habitat that is feeling the effects of human plastic waste. This widespread pollutant makes its way into our oceans and waterways everyday, causing harmful and sometimes fatal consequences for the wildlife that encounters it.
Sea birds, turtles, and other small animals can get trapped by plastic waste, or ingest it with almost always fatal consequences. The plastics also release toxic chemicals into the water that over time increases ocean acidification. And, because plastics do not easily biodegrade, they will remain in the oceans for centuries.
Despite the scary side effects of petroleum-based plastics, they are still used in American households every single day. Plastic is cheap to manufacturer, lighter to transport, and offers the simplicity of a single-use product for its consumers. While these conveniences are positive in the short-term, they are causing irreparable damage to ocean habitats and our own marine food supplies.
Petroleum-based plastics will have to be phased out in upcoming years in order to reduce pollution and keep our oceans healthy. Bioplastics, made from renewable and oftentimes biodegradable materials, may be the solution we’re looking for in order to fight ocean pollution. Here’s how hemp plays an important role in the sustainable future of bioplastics:
Hemp plastics are made of hemp fibers, and are typically 100% biodegradable unlike petroleum-based and some other bioplastics. Because hemp plastics can biodegrade and contain no inherent toxins, they are much safer when they are accidentally into natural environments.
Another reason that hemp plastics are safer for our oceans than petroleum-based plastics is their relatively small environmental footprint. Hemp requires few pesticides and virtually no herbicides to produce. It can be planted every year, and is a great rotation crop to use in the farming of certain grains. On the contrary, fossil fuels cannot be planted in the ground and grown next season, and humans continue to develop more and more destructive ways to reach them (such as offshore drilling and fracking). Hemp cultivation is all-around safer for the environment. However, bioplastics, including hemp plastics, are not completely risk-averse to our ecosystems.
While hemp plastic is in many ways more eco-friendly than petroleum-based plastics, it is not a cure-all for ocean pollution.Hemp plastic will biodegrade more quickly than other plastics, but it still poses significant risks while in its plastic form. Hemp plastic, as with all plastics, should be sent to industrial composting and recycling facilities for safest disposal. Reducing the use of plastics overall is also essential in cleaning up the oceans.
Hemp plastics may also not be widely available to the market for some time. While hemp is land-efficient, it requires a significant amount of water as well as nutrient-rich soil. Hemp cultivation is also labor intensive, as harvesting machinery damages the plants and cannot be used. Because it must be harvested by hand and requires specific growing conditions to produce profitable yields, hemp is often grown for higher ticket items such as hemp oil and CBD.
However, that doesn’t mean that companies aren’t invested in this shift toward sustainability. Corporations both big and small are making investments in the future of hemp technologies.
In June 2015, The Coca-Cola Company introduced the world’s first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant materials. Their PlantBottle packaging is fully recyclable and made from a variety of plant materials. Other hemp-plastic advocates include Green Spring Technologies, SANA Packaging, and PF Design Lab. These companies provide hemp-based and other bioplastics to manufacturers and distributors throughout the U.S. If companies as big as Coca Cola, as well as local enterprises can commit to plant-based plastics, there is no reason others won’t soon follow suit.
Remedy Review supports the shift toward a sustainable future by providing accurate, thorough information on eco-friendly CBD brands across the United States. To learn more about our favorite green CBD brands, click here.