On April 20, 2010, the largest marine spill in history took place in the Gulf of Mexico. Once the leaking oil had been capped, clean-up efforts were started. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the government announced that chemical dispersants and manual skimmers were removing the oil slicks left behind.
Five years later, scientists are still trying to figure out if these methods actually help or if we are better off allowing ocean currents to degrade oil naturally. Enter bioremediation. The process is very simple. Microbes from certain plants, such as industrial hemp or kenaf, break down petroleum hydrocarbons while metabolizing them for growth and survival. Because hydrocarbons are a natural (and major) molecular component of crude oil, these counteracting microbes could aid in cleanup efforts following oil spills and other instances of pollution.
According to David Schmitt, COO of Hemp, Inc., kenaf and industrial hemp fibers are great oil-absorbing materials.
“We took roughly 2,000 pounds of it (kenaf) down to the Gulf in Louisiana. We couldn’t get through all the political red tape to demonstrate our product so we made a pile of it on the beach. It was totally amazing to watch all the birds and other small animals that were completely covered in oil walk in and through the pile of kenaf and how easily it removed the oil from them. It was like they instinctively knew that this mound of kenaf would help save their lives.”
Spill-Be-Gone and SpillSuck are trademarked products manufactured by Industrial Hemp Manufacturing LLC. (A wholly owned subsidiary of Hemp, Inc.). It is fast and cost effective in cleaning up oil spills on land or water. It can also be disposed of in a green manner as well, so as not to pollute the environment further.
The Office of Response and Restoration admits that dispersants made from chemically-laced ingredients do not address the water column beneath the ocean’s surface. In addition, dispersants are also only marginally effective on the water’s surface. Hopefully, the government will recognize the advantages of bioremediation with natural plants like kenaf and industrial hemp soon. Protecting our bodies of water and sea life should take priority over the legalities of industrial hemp.