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Italian region exploring hemp for plastic and cleaning up soil

Roccasecca, in the Lazio region of central Italy, is the birthplace of St. Thomas Aquina.Roccasecca, in the Lazio region of central Italy, is the birthplace of St. Thomas Aquinas.
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Authorities in the Italian town of Roccasecca say they will explore the potential for developing a hemp plastics supply chain while cleaning up local land through the plant’s remediation possibilities.

Marco Delle Cese, president of the Consortium for the Industrial Development of Southern Lazio (Cosilam), and Roccasecca Mayor Giuseppe Sacco recently announced the initiative. A memorandum of understanding was signed with the National Agency for New Technologies and Sustainable Energy (ENEA) and the University of Cassino (Unicas), which will be scientific partners on the project..

‘Green plastic’ dream

“The way to obtain plastic will be studied starting from hemp molecules and no longer from a synthesis process that starts from petroleum derivatives. Plastic that does not pollute, green plastic that is biodegradable: that is the dream,” said Delle Cese.

The project aims develop a supply chain similar to one organized among stakeholders for the local tobacco industry in Roccasecca and several local communities in the Lazio region. Authorities envision a local industry that starts with seedlings, ensures raw material is available to processors and guarantees payment to farmers.

The partners have already identified packaging as a key business opportunity. The initiative now seeks industrial partners who will bring expertise in polymers, green management and energy, according to Delle Cese. “We need those who are able to take the product and transform it,” he said.

Good for industry

Delle Cese said an industrial consortium being formed in Lazio can also play a role in establishing a hemp industry for the region.

Mayor Sacco, whose administration has focused on environmental issues, said the initiative can not only help clean up the land but also put it back into business and create jobs. The project is the first effort to reclaim land in the Roccasecca industrial area through crops capable of absorbing metals authorities say have poisoned the local soil for years.

Officials in Umbria, an adjacent region in central Italy are also looking closely at the potential in hemp fiber-based bioplastics and biopolymers, as well the natural textile and fashion sectors.

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