How does petro-chemical weed barrier affect our environment and our CBD products?
On social media sites we see pictures everyday of plastic in our oceans. We need to look at what is happening in the fields across the United States and we should be gravely concerned. In the state of Colorado, 50,000 acres of hemp were planted while 230,000 acres in the US were planted using petro-chemical weed barrier. A football field is slightly bigger than one acre.
Petro-chemical weed barrier used to grow hemp in the state of Colorado totaled 11.5 Million pounds and in the United States was 52.9 million pounds in 2019. This amount doesn’t even include plastic weed barrier used to grow our food across the United States. including organic farms. Next, lets look at those numbers in an equal comparison of plastic grocery bags. A grocery sack is made of .5 mil plastic and measures 12x7x22 inches. After doing the math, the state of Colorado uses 2.24 billion plastic bags to grow hemp and 10.3 billion bags across the US. That is a lot of plastic bags!
How much plastic weed barrier was used in 2019 to grow hemp?
Let’s answer that question using plastic grocery bags for comparison:
Colorado – 2.24 billion plastic bags
United States – 10.3 billion plastic bags
Not all farms are using plastic weed barrier and some farms have chosen paper weed barrier. Some farms, including Zenzen Organics, have chose not to use any weed barrier products in their fields. In 2020, we will be planting wild flowers and low growing cover crops for weed suppression.
So, where does all that plastic go? Some farmers pull it up and burn it! Yes burn it! This is a huge contributor to air pollution. Some farmers til the plastic film back into the soil causing eco-toxicity of the soil. Other farmers take it to the dump which is very expensive. That roll, weighing 230 lbs., now weighs close to 400 pounds which is even more expensive to dispose because it has soil and water in the plastic. Can petrochemical weed barrier be recycled? Yes and no. Yes, if there is a recycling center that handles this type of plastic and the machinery to do so. Most farms are located in rural areas and most recycling centers are in metropolitan areas. However, the plastic is hard to recycle because it is covered with dirt. It is also very expensive to transport this amount of plastic to the nearest recycling center. The nearest one to Colorado is in California and they will not take plastic from our fields due to their pest regulations.
Where does that plastic go?
- Burned in the fields
- Tilled back into the soil
- Disposed in the landfill
When plastic is exposed to natural light it starts breaking down in a process called photo-degradation. During the growing season it is also exposed to wind, rain, and heat. Then, if left in the field over the winter it is repeatedly exposed to freeze and thaw cycles. This causes the plastic to break down in a process called embrittlement and then chain scission. Embrittlement and chain scission is when large pieces of plastics, or the polymer chains, are cleaved into smaller and smaller segments or pieces. Eventually the plastic will become a plastic powder called friable powder, which is not visible to the naked eye, and then absorbed by plants. The hemp plant is a phytoremediator meaning that it will absorb toxins from the soil.
Now fast forward a couple years. The same field has been covered with plastic and is tilled into the soil year after year. The plastic is now broken down into powder that can be absorbed by the plant. The biomass (the leaves and buds of the hemp plant) are then extracted into oil into a concentrate called crude, which looks like thick molasses. If that plant has been exposed to herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers or petro-chemical friable powder, those toxic elements are now in your CBD oil in a concentrated level.
What happens to plastic as it breaks down?
- Breaks down into small pieces: Embrittlement
- Small pieces become micro-plastics: Chain Scission
- Micro-plastics becomes a powder: Friable Powder
- Powder is absorb by plants: Eco-toxicity of the Environment
Hemp and plastic do not belong together. Hemp absorbs friable powder out of the soil and is now in the plant. The hemp is extracted into crude oil along with concentrated plastics, which is basically poison for your body. The question is: Do you know your farmer and their growing practices? When you purchased your CBD form the grocery store, gas station, pop-up shop or online, you do not know the farmer. Not all CBD products are the same, nor are the farmers. Zenzen Organics is proud to lead the hemp industry by educating farmers and consumers about plastics in CBD. Come visit the farm, walk the fields and learn about how Zenzen Organics protects the environment and protects their soil from contaminants such as plastics.
Cindie Sorensen is owner of Zenzen Organics. Zenzen Organics takes great pride in producing the highest quality of hemp for our CBD products. We do not use pesticides, herbicides, chemical based fertilizers or petro-chemical weed barrier in growing hemp. The boutique hemp farm is only 1.3 acres. By limiting production acreage they are able to come in contact with each plant. They hand weed, hand harvest, and hand strip their hemp from the stalk. The hemp is hung in the 100 year old red barn on the farm and is extracted using 200% grain alcohol. Zenzen Organics is a family farm and they care about the soil, the plants and their customers, …From Soil to Oil…