Citing a growing interest in bio-based replacements for plastic, one study tested the addition of hemp to other bio-based materials.
In a study published in the Journal of Polymer Science, researchers from Western University in Canada tested the possibility of using hemp powder to create a new biomaterial to use instead of plastic (1,2).
“This material is a composite of hemp powder and a biodegradable polymer or plastic that we made in our lab…we basically blend these two together to make this new material,” explained Elizabeth Gillies, chemistry professor at Western University and one of the study’s authors (3). “It is meant to be actually a fairly simple chemical structure and material.”
Cost, lack of research, and certain materials’ inability to degrade were noted in the study as barriers to overcome in the current pursuit of biodegradable alternatives to plastic (1). The study also noted the benefits of hemp as an addition to a biocomposite material (1).
“The incorporation of natural materials as reinforcement in biocomposite materials can impart strength and stiffness,” the Introduction stated (1). “For example, hemp fibers from the cannabis plant have been one of the most important natural fibers as they can be grown in an ecologically friendly manner. Furthermore, the hemp-based materials are currently a waste product from the growing regulated medical/recreational cannabis industry.”
“I don’t think we envision any issues with scale up…but of course we are still a little ways away from having it be produced on a large scale by manufacturers,” Dr. Gillies (2). “It’s a tremendously growing area. Companies now are really starting to think about the end life of their materials.”
“Thus, this work demonstrates a new series of biocomposites, with tunable properties, which can be fully sourced from renewable resources and has strong potential for biodegradation in the environment. We envision that these materials can be used in applications such as packaging,” the Conclusions section stated (1).