“I envision a future where the Fords, the GMs, the Stellantis’ of the world take plastics out of their automobiles and infuse them with industrial hemp to replace those plastics, thus reducing their carbon footprint,” says Isiah Thomas, NBA star, cannabis entrepreneur and CEO of One World Products (OTC: OWPC), the largest Black-controlled, licensed hemp and cannabis producer in Colombia.
While this may sound innovative, even in 2022, hemp cars were actually a reality some 80 years before that. In 1941, Henry Ford presented a car prototype with a body made mostly from plant-derived materials like soybeans, wheat, hemp and flax. Taking it even further, Ford asked Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, to develop a special, unique propulsion system for this car: the vehicle would also run on vegetable and hemp oil.
These days, Thomas’ company is working on hemp car parts as well. Per a recent agreement with Stellantis (NYSE: STLA), the sixth-largest automaker worldwide, owner of Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Peugeot and other portfolio brands, One World Products will develop and supply hemp-based bioplastic components for cars’ interiors and exteriors.
Hemp Glasses by Chanvre, COURTESY
According to a recent report, hemp isn’t only a more environmentally friendly option to traditional plastics, which would help curb the massive impact of the auto industry on CO2 emissions, but it’s also stronger than steel and lighter than glass fiber. Furthermore, many hemp plastics are fully biodegradable, making their production approach carbon neutrality.
While the hemp materials space is still not very crowded, a few other companies have recognized its potential as well. In Argentina, a brand called Chanvre makes the most beautiful hemp eyewear you’ve seen. Similarly, Nebraska’s Hemp3D, which also makes eyewear, recently released a chess set made with hemp. And, U.S.-based Santa Cruz Shredder also uses hemp plastics to make cannabis paraphernalia.
In 2019, the CEO of CBD company Elixinol Global, Paul Benhaim, launched the Hemp Plastic Company, with the intention of using the waste from the former’s CBD production to make hemp-based bioplastics. The Hemp Foundation does something similar. Meanwhile, Sana Packaging uses hemp and reclaimed plastics to make sustainable packaging for cannabis businesses.
Examples like these abound, and one thing is clear: the planet needs sustainable plastics, and these early entrants stand to benefit from this trend.