Here’s a daunting fact; nearly every piece of plastic EVER MADE still exists today!
I’m just emerging from a black-hole of information on the manufacture, make-up, and end-of-life possibilities of nylon vs hemp. I’m exploring their properties as two possible options to use for the pendants of my new collection.
On the one hand you have nylon which is really strong and durable, looks fantastic and comes in truly magnificent colours. But, it is made using crude oil, requires lots of energy to make it, and produces CO2 emissions and a whole lot of other nasties which you can read about on this terrific blog here.
A fact in its favour is that it can be recycled, but, let’s be honest, the likelihood of people making the effort to recycle their small bit of nylon thread is very low.
Hemp, on the other hand, seems to be the goody-two-shoes of thread! One of its most impressive credentials is that it is “among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years…” (thanks HIA) Does that blow your mind? It does mine. 10,000 years? That’s what I call sustainable! (by contrast the first bit of nylon was made on the 28th of February, 1935 – and, since it is of the plastic family, we know that every single piece of nylon that has been produced since that day most likely still exists on the planet somewhere. Ick.).
Anyway, I haven’t been able to find out much about the processing of hemp (dying, factory conditions, energy required to convert it from a plant into thread etc), but the fibre itself seems almost infallible. With only 8 natural enemies (out of 100 common pests) it is usually grown without pesticides (less pollution of our water ways and poisoning of the land), has very long fibres (longer and tougher than cotton), and is even good to eat (totally irrelevant to this blog but true none the less). It’s grown in Oz but sent OS for processing as we don’t have the set-up here yet (looks like they’re planning one for Qld some time soon).
The hemp I’m considering purchasing comes from Romania (Romania has a great and long association with hemp – unfortunately 50% of the general population are unhappy with their working conditions so this may mean that it’s made in a factory where conditions aren’t so great, I don’t know this for sure yet). Another brand comes from the USA but as growing hemp there is banned, I’m not sure where the fibre comes from or where or how it is processed.
From a design point of view, hemp’s available in many great colours (which coincidently go very well with the colour scheme in my new collection), and comes in a lovely polished finish. Almost perfect. But it’s so un-cool! (Yes, I am aware of how un-cool using a term like un-cool makes me sound. What evs.) Mention hemp and most will picture a hippy in dust-coloured Hessian-like trousers. Well, people, its time we changed that. The argument for natural fibres is clearly a strong one. From start to finish, their impact on the Earth is much lower.
So caught up in the nylon v hemp battle I almost forgot to address the topic of this blog; I have signed myself up for Plastic-free July. Read more about the awesome folks in WA running this here (you could even sign yourself up!). I’ve no doubt this will be challenging, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. I like to participate in a bit of extreme behaviour every now and then. The last time I did something similar was the ‘two-dollar a day’ challenge set by the kids at Oaktree. I had to eat on a budget of $2 a day for a week. Think about that for a moment. No coffee (had to go cold turkey) and only the tiniest amount of milk, sugar and salt to prop up my diet of beans, oats, rice and, well, that was pretty much it. But out of that experience I learned how to fit breakfast into my morning routine, broke my dairy addiction and gained an enormous appreciation of how ridiculously hard it must be to have to survive on that amount day-in day-out (important to note that a large percentage of the world’s population have to include medical and general living expenses in their $2 a day budget). So, as I say, bring it on!