India generates more than 25000 tons of plastic every year and plastics constitute 10 % of all the waste generated annually. Almost no areas have been spared from the influx of plastic and the Himalayas are no different.
Such is the menace of plastic in the region, that there are debris covers on glaciers now which result in the formation of glacial lakes.
It was due to the bursting of one such glacial lake in 2013 that led to flash floods in Kedarnath that devastated the state of Uttarakhand. The need for an alternative to plastic is more urgent than ever.
However, this does not mean that there is no alternative to plastic at the moment. There is an alternative and that is called – bioplastic which is derived from renewable biomass sources.
Bioplastics can be sustainably produced and are 100% toxic free. The best part is that they are biodegradable which means they assimilate with the environment without destroying it.
So far Bioplastics have been ignored for the cheaper, petroleum-based alternatives. This is where hemp bioplastic can come in to save Himalayas in 5 ways.
Biodegradable and recyclable
Hemp plastic is completely biodegradable and recyclable unlike conventional plastic. Although, recycling here means that once it biodegrades and mixes with the soil it can provide the essential nutrients for a new plant’s growth.
Hemp is lightweight and very strong
The tensile strength of hemp is appealing to many industries as hemp is being used in industries as varied as automobiles, building and packaging.
Hemp bioplastics are affordable and easy to manufacture
The cost of manufacturing hemp plastic comes down to almost similar prices of present-day manufacturing techniques of plastic from petroleum.
The hemp plant can be easily melted and expelled in to a mold cavity where it can be given the desired shape.
Hemp bioplastics are extremely eco-friendly
Hemp absorbs four time more carbon dioxide than trees and it grows quickly too within 12-14 weeks. The production of hemp plastic also requires 25% less energy than fossil-based fuel-based products.
Hemp has more cellulose
Cellulose is the primary building block of plastic. Hemp has a high amount of cellulose content (65-70%) compared to wood 40 %, flax 65-75% and cotton up to 90%.
The problem with conventional cellulose source is that it is petroleum which is not sustainable in the long run. Also, Petroleum can’t be grown organically and it is toxic, the opposite for which is true for hemp.
Last but not least
The benefits of hemp are far more than the benefits of petroleum-based products. Climate change is a reality that is happening around us and the pristine beauty of the Himalayas cannot be allowed to change at any cost.
The use of hemp to create single use plastics can go a long way in protecting our natural sites from destruction at the hands of plastic.