From toothbrushes at luxury island resorts to 3D printing filament, products made from hemp-based plastics are popping up in consumer products since the crop was made legal in the United States in 2018 for the first time in 80 years.
They are the latest generation of bioplastics, which are plastic materials produced from renewable sources such as agricultural by-products, straw, wood chips, sawdust and recycled food waste — and now hemp.
Hemp seems to satisfy some plant-based plastics researchers looking for alternatives to plastic waste that has filled landfills and oceans.
Hemp fiber, for example, is used in one of the plant-based plastics developed by Chad Ulven, an associate professor of mechanical engineering from North Dakota State University, through his Fargo-based company, c2Renew.
There’s a craze around being able to grow hemp finally in the United States and 3D print and play with the material,” Ulven said.
His work furthers research with polylactic acid, a resin created from corn byproducts. It is formulated with organic fillers like coffee and beer waste, flax, cotton, seed hulls and even charred industrial carbon.
Hemp-based plastics now are expanding to both injection-mold and 3D additive manufacturing, Ulven said.