Hemp plastic, produced from the plant's stem, has been deemed the future of plastics. Its properties have caught several companies' eyes—especially from the packaging industry—eager to find a better solution than petroleum-based plastics, which are among the many causes behind climate change.
Zion Market Research's report on the topic places the global cannabis packaging industry at $20 billion by 2025. Packaging companies like Sonoco Products Co, Constantia Flexibles, O.Berk, Klöckner Pentaplast, and MG America are already considering adding the cannabis industry to their processes.
This interest comes from the apparent superiority of hemp-based plastics. This variant is cheaper to produce, more environmentally friendly, and overall healthier to consumers. Hemp plastic takes 3-6 months to decompose and can be recycled indefinitely.
The plastic has also proven to be 5 times stiffer and 2.5 times durable than traditional plastic. The longer a product lasts, the less it needs to be produced, resulting in energy savings. The compound is also heat resistant, making it ideal for culinary use.
Hemp uses for plastic seems limitless—from house construction to papermaking. Currently, hemp bioplastic is mostly utilized for ecological packaging production for hemp products. Companies like the Australian brand Zeoform make furniture and surfboards from hemp. The plastic is also used to make cellophane to produce food film and raw material for 3D printers.
However, it seems it will be a bumpy road before hemp bioplastic becomes a sole solution to the plastics market.
"The hemp industry is definitely growing and becoming a lot larger year by year. But in the grand scheme of things, it's still a really small industry with very limited infrastructure," said James Eichner, CSO, and co-founder of Sana Packaging, to Bioplastic News.
Producing hemp-based packaging from the plant residue promises to become the leading process. Still, for now, the hemp industry hasn't developed the infrastructure necessary to be consistently on par with plastics production. In the future, though, it might be a different story.