Several new companies are turning to hemp to create renewable bioplastics that can serve as an alternative to traditional, oil-based plastics. As the amount of plastic waste in oceans and landfills reaches epic proportions, researchers are working to create plastic alternatives from renewable sources like straw, wood, food waste, or hemp.
Denver-based Sana Packaging is one company that is using both hemp-derived plastic, as well as recycled ocean plastic, to create sustainable packaging for the cannabis industry. Retail regulations in Canada and US adult-use states often impose extreme packaging requirements on legal weed products, which have resulted in an excessive amount of single-use plastic pot packaging.
"Because of the ability to [easily] produce plastics, we got ourselves into single-use disposable culture, and that has caused a dysfunctional system," said Sana CEO Ron Basak-Smith to United Press International (UPI). Sana now uses plastics with hemp fillers to create sustainable injection-molded packaging for around 200 legal weed companies.
Chad Ulven, associate professor of mechanical engineering from North Dakota State University, has been exploring how to create bioplastics with polylactic acid, a resin created from corn, coffee or beer waste, flax, cotton, seeds, or charred carbon. Now, Ulven and his Fargo-based company c2Renew are looking at using hemp-based plastics for injection molding and 3D printing.
"There's a craze around being able to grow hemp finally in the United States and 3D print and play with the material," said Ulven to UPI. "I'm not saying it's a save-the-world type of moment... But the more options we have for controlling our discarded waste, the more options we create for sustainability."
Another Fargo-based company, 3D-Fuel, has also recently started using hemp-based filament. This filament, when melted and layered by a 3D printer, can create plastic surfaces which can be utilized when making frames for glasses, product sales stands, or home décor items like lampshades or vases. "We see a lot of people who use it for specialty parts, especially in the cannabis industry," said 3D-Fuel CEO John Schneider.
Minnesota-based Bogobrush has focused its efforts to reduce plastic waste in the dental industry by creating hemp-derived toothbrushes (which just might be the perfect pair for cannabis toothpaste). After an initial attempt to create bamboo toothbrushes proved unsuccessful, the company began creating biodegradable and recyclable toothbrushes made from plant-based plastics, including hemp.
"Plastics have done a lot of great things in the world, like being used in airplanes or medical devices," said Heather McDougall of Bogobrush to UPI. "But we want to be investing in plant-based plastics that can serve us into the future."