Wood Flour As A Plastic Additive – Why Cutting Down Trees Is Not Sustainable and We Need an Alternative
Business leaders have been trying to figure out how to make plastics more sustainable for generations. Unfortunately, with regards to the materials we use on a daily basis this has driven us further away from the sustainable future we’re all striving toward.
Back in the 1960’s wood flour (or wood filler) was used as an additive to plastics for the first time. Initially, this was done to make plastic more sustainable. But, over the years, people started to see that this was creating the exact opposite effect.
It became clear that people focused on sustainability had no interest in putting cut down trees in their plastics.
The lumber industry has tried to convince the world why they need companies to cut down trees. The reality is, cutting down trees does not meet any known sustainability goals.
A Brief History of Tree Hugging
Tree hugging is closely associated with the hippie movement of the 1970s. The definition of a tree hugger is an environmental campaigner. This movement was based around the symbol of a person embracing a tree in an attempt to prevent it from being cut down.
But, hippies were not the original tree huggers. So, where did they come from?
The first known tree huggers were called Bishnois who represent a sect of Hinduism that resides in Northern India. In 1730, Forresters came through town to cut down trees that would be used to build a palace. The Bishnois were not willing to part ways with their sacred trees and, in response, led a physical protest.
During this protest, their leader, Amrita Devi, wrapped herself around a tree to stop the foresters from cutting it down. In response, the Forresters attacked her and the trees with their axes. In support of their leader, 363 other Bisnois sacrifice their lives for the trees. Eventually, the foresters admitted defeat.
These were the seeds that sprouted the tree-hugging movement hundreds of years ago.
Our Planet Relies on Trees
The lumber industry tries to make us all think that trees are disposable. Today, cutting down a tree takes a few seconds. But, their desire to create a 2 by 4 comes at the cost of the benefits trees have been providing to our planet for millions of years.
A mature tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. Their ability to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen has been well documented throughout history. This begs the question, why are we actively cutting down trees?
The players in the plastics industry that are trying to become more sustainable only have one solution today: buy wood fillers (also called wood flour) from sawmills to use as an additive to plastic. This was a vain attempt to appeal to the “eco-friendly” customer that values the environment.
It’s become increasingly clear that wood fillers are the exact opposite of the sustainable solution that manufacturers have been looking for.
People who actually care about the environment would never promote cutting down trees to save it.
Here are a few of the environmental, social, and economic benefits of trees.
The Amazon rainforest provides about 9% of the world’s oxygen. Today, it’s being both cut down and burned down.
The forests in California and other regions are consistently burning to the ground from hotter temperatures, poor forest management, and a lack of rain.
Protecting trees is something all people should stand for. There’s no reason why someone should want to remove trees from planet earth.
Here are a few of the environmental benefits that trees provide:
- Trees conserve water and prevent water pollution.
- Trees replenish underground water reserves.
- Trees provide habitats for birds and insects.
- Trees create food for bees, birds, and other animals.
- Trees reduce wind speed.
- Trees stabilize soil to prevent erosion.
- Trees absorb up to one-third of particle pollutants within a 300-yard radius.
- Trees reduce urban flooding and keep pollutants out of waterways.
- Trees reduce evaporation rates.
We all know that trees are beautiful to look at. They make our neighborhoods look aesthetically pleasing, and create a reminder that nature is both green and living.
Communities are not just a bunch of concrete buildings put in the same general area. Communities have parks, lawns, and scenic views that create an experience that people want to come back to.
Trees are foundational to that experience. Removing them is removing the living things that civilization has relied upon for millions of years.
Here are a few of the social benefits that trees provide:
- Trees filter pollutants from the air.
- Trees cool the atmosphere.
- Trees filter rainfall and the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
- Trees provide shade and comfort to all living things.
- Trees increase recreation opportunities.
- Trees absorb sounds.
Saving trees is a lot more economically beneficial than cutting them down. If we can reduce our expenses as a society by saving trees, then why would we look to remove them?
There are many reasons why having trees in our local communities is valuable to all the living things that surround it.
Here are a few of the economic benefits that trees provide:
- Trees prevent flooding and damage to neighborhoods.
- Trees reduce energy costs in winter by creating a wind barrier.
- Trees improve air quality which reduces cardiac disease, strokes, and asthma.
- Trees reduce energy costs in summer by providing shade to buildings.
- Trees improve human health and reduce medical costs.
- Trees improve a neighborhood’s property values.
How Heartland Can Prevent Trees From Being Cut Down.
The Heartland team is actively pursuing initiatives that will reduce the number of trees used in plastics across the world. Industrial hemp is grown in 90 days and can be sustainably harvested every year, providing a low-cost, high-value resource for the plastics industry.
Frequently, wood fillers are compounded with polypropylene, polyethylene, PVC, and polylactic acid (PLA). Hemp-based materials can be compounded with all these plastics to create increased performance benefits and reduced carbon footprints.
Hemp-filled plastics are stronger and lighter than wood-filled plastics. As industries seek to lightweight their plastics and hit on their sustainability mandates, they will be looking for plastic additives that create stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable products.
Heartland’s industrial hemp additives allow plastic compounders to mix the plastics they’re already using, with the equipment that’s already sitting in their manufacturing facility. This creates an entirely new value proposition for manufacturers having Imperium Inside.
Join us as we build a world out of hemp.