nova: Who are you? Please give us some introductions.
Paul Benhaim: I am Paul Benhaim. I have been working with hemp since the early 90’s when I first developed a hemp snack bar called “9bar”. This was developed as a response to the need that people had to learn about hemp. I knew that the only thing better than informing them face to face was to give them a product that they could personally experience. A chocolate coated bar seemed perfect! These bars sold multi-millions throughout nine European countries. I became a consultant for other hemp food manufacturers in 1998 and developed a successful hemp bread and ice-cream. The bread is sold successfully throughout European with containers being shipped to North America and the ice-cream is just about to enter European supermarkets.
Just around this time I was discussing with a friend the most environmentally polluting waste on our planet. I felt that petro-chemical based plastics were the worst I had experienced on my travels throughout the world. At the tops of the Himalayas I found plastic bottles and bags that were being dumped in villages, that I knew would not biodegrade for generations. It had been my goal since I was a teenager to produce a biodegradable plastic bag or bottle. I never believed this would happen. One day my friend, a post-graduate from one of the world’s most advanced BioComposite universities offered me a chance to produce a “hemp plastic”. With his contacts in the university and a small plastics moulding company we were able to develop a 25% hemp and 75% recycled polypropylene material that could be injection moulded.
nova: First, what is hemp plastics?
Paul Benhaim: Plastics are anything mouldable. Hemp Plastics are anything mouldable that contains hemp.
nova: Where did the 25% hemp plastic go?
Paul Benhaim: It was decided that this still primitive material was suitable to get the message across to the public- we can make plastics from plant sources. The same theory as my snack bar- giving people something to hold, we produced a Frisbee. We offered companies the opportunity to print their logos on and become part of an historical occasion. The response was phenomenal! Multi-nationals throughout the world have since been contacting us for various technical applications that we felt could in the future be supplied. Since this time we have moved a long way. The material we first produced was very basic. It was a decision by the newly formed Hemp Plastics (UK) Ltd. to cease production of this material as we felt it could be improved. There was a need to further research and develop this material to what we knew could be 90% plant based. This has been done, but there are still technical details that need to be understood and further developed before we have a product to offer.
nova: And how are you doing this?
Paul Benhaim: The current team in Hemp Plastics are very practical and have produced a business proposal with basic funds. This is designed to raise £40.000 (in £2.000 lots) to produce a technical document that will be sufficient to raise full finance for a working factory producing a 90% hemp plastic product
nova: Are you looking for partners?
Paul Benhaim: Yes. The current round of finance is still open, with a limited amount of shares on offer. We already have offers from potential partners wanting to run the production side and we also have interest from potential distributors. And we know, from the Frisbee experience that the public are very keen for more environmentally friendly products.
nova: Is there only this form of hemp plastics?
Paul Benhaim: No. There are two other technologies that I am involved with in separate ventures. For now, I am focussing on the technology I have spoken about above as this is the most likely to succeed first and shall be a grounding to represent the other two technologies.
nova: That are?
Paul Benhaim: Producing a hemp plastic film from the starch of a current by-product of hemp processing. This will be used to produce food quality films, plastic bags and general packaging applications. It is 100% biodegradable.
nova: Can this be done now?
Paul Benhaim: Yes. If you want plastic bags from 100% hemp we can produce them, and most importantly we can produce them at an economically viable cost. It is still more expensive than the cheap plastic bags imported from China, but not so much. The only catch is that we need large quantity orders to make this happen. This needs to be supported by a company able to work with us on this project in so far as funding us with a deposit from their first order to ensure first production.
nova: And there was one further technology?
Paul Benhaim: Yes, Hemp Stone, developed in Austria, this is a material that is as solid as “stone” that can be spray moulded. This technology is being furthered to the production stage and has some work to go to move it to commercially viable levels. Relatively large finance is needed to ensure this will happen, but I think that overall, this is the most exciting technology as it is too 100% biodegradable and plant based. There are no glues or resins used in this material, it is a patented mechanical process.
nova: Are there any products made from this now?
Paul Benhaim: Yes, you can buy a didgeridoo (musical instrument) made from 100% hemp stone right now! They are handmade unique pieces. They will be seen as a great stepping stone in the future when we are all using environmentally sustainable plant based and biodegradable products. So with all these technologies, Hemp Plastics will reach every part of our life, plastics are everywhere. So where can we find out more? Look at www.hempplastic.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org and request the investment document to become involved in these projects now, at the still very early stages.
Autor und Gesprächsführung: Klaus-Martin Meyer (nova)
Endredaktion: Marion Kupfer (nova)
Quelle: Interview mit Paul Benhaim (Hemp Plastics UK) vom 2002-03-28.
(Vgl. auch Meldung vom 2001-11-13.)
Source: Interview mit Paul Benhaim (Hemp Plastics UK) vom 2002-03-28.