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NewsPlastic in the time of COVID19, will Hemp save us?

Plastic in the time of COVID19, will Hemp save us?

With the growing request of  NWF, the alternative to deforestation could be the cultivation of fibre Hemp. 

The COVID19 pandemic has triggered reactions in individuals of various kind, such as the rush to buy basic necessities.

If we focus our attention on Europe, we can notice, for example, a substantial increase in the purchase of products like toilet paper and sanitary towels.

We are talking about single-use products, irreplaceable in the modern societies, realised through processes requiring the use of plastic or wood fibre.

The statistics on the consumption of cellulose wadding 

In order to produce a tonne of cellulose, about 3.6 tonnes of wood are needed, this quantity in wood ends up in the dustbin; an incredibly impressive figure, if multiplied by the requirements of cellulose in Europe alone.    

In an interesting article published in the magazine Agrinotizie, these figures are analysed in comparison to data regarding the consumption of wood for paper production and the consumption of biomass for energy purposes, as assessed in the report EuroObserver’ER.

The evidence emerging, is that the main consumer of agroforestry biomass is the paper-producing industry, followed by the industry of biomass for energy use. Between these two categories we can find the production of disposable items in cellulose.

The substitution of plastic before Covid19

With the emergence of green economy and the issues connected with pollution, a strategy has been developed to substitute plastic with eco-friendly materials. The latest new, in time order, before COVID19, is the arrival of a new precious ally, pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis is a form of chemical recycling, which could substitute the mechanical and traditionally practised process, as stated by research carried out by the Boston Consulting Group.

Mechanical recycling, which means the recovery of plastic waste through mechanical processes, presents various weaknesses, among which the incapability of treating some of the plastic materials, while pyrolysis makes it possible to obtain, at the end of the process, up to 70 – 80% of petrol and 10 – 15% of gas.

“Each year – BCG estimates – of about 350 million tonnes of plastic produced around the world, 250 end up in landfills or are dispersed in the environment, 10 tonnes end up in the oceans. The first step towards the reduction of the immense environmental impact of plastic is to limit the use of single-use items, encourage  reuse and recycling, with the aid of a more conscious consumption culture, especially in the top 20 economies in the world, which, alone use, from 75% to 90% of the total plastic”.

The substitution of plastic during COVID19

With the pandemic it is difficult to imagine that people abandon the use of toilet paper or of single-use sanitary towels, on the contrary, a rapid increase of their consumption has been registered. 

At the same time, one of the most widespread commodities in plastic is NWF (Non woven fabric), generally used for the production of paddings, filters and, hence, of masks and suits protecting against COVID19. The surge in the request of NWF during the pandemic has caused a lack of masks and protective suits throughout the world.

The response to this emergency could come from Hemp, which, in combination with linen and kenaf, might be able to  bring the production of ecological NWF to life. How?

An evolving project; the developed technology consists in separating the cortical fibres of the cortex and of the xylem – the shive in the case of hemp – without however destroying the phloem, useful to give the final product absorbing characteristics and cohesion between the fibres, even when the material is humid. 

This evidence validates, once more, that Hemp has the capability of proving itself an excellent ally for the human being. In this specific case, by being able to address the economic, social and health crisis Europe is going through, due to COVID19. 

In conclusion, we underline that the alternative to deforestation might as well be the cultivation of fibre hemp.