In recent years, agriculture has included in its practices the use of several types of plastics that not only help improve the quality of its crops, shorten the seasons and increase the production of fruits, vegetables and flowers, but also facilitate planting in non-traditional areas. However, beyond being a positive factor, farmers often find themselves at a crossroads where they don’t know what to do with these plastics once their shelf life has elapsed.
The subsequent disposal of these materials is usually a headache, especially for environmental specialists, since there are a large number of farmers who, perhaps due to lack of knowledge, engage in unrecommended practices such as burning these materials or burying them in an area of their farm for example, thus posing a health risk by compromising not only the quality of the sources of water, air and soil, but also of their own produce harvest.
Alternatives for recycling agricultural plastics
Therefore, it is worth mentioning some of the alternatives that are being implemented to recycle agricultural plastics as part of a solution that allows a more responsible use of this waste material, while reducing the environmental impact.
Perhaps, when we talk about recycling agricultural plastics you could think it is the obvious alternative to solve the waste problem. However, many farmers who have been consulted agree that one of the obstacles they encounter to do so is the lack of access to a program that collects the materials for further recycling, and as a result they try to do whatever they can with the resources available.
According to information published in a research work by Mountain View County, the use of plastic materials in agriculture has increased considerably, as well as the waste resulting from this practice, which is why the Mountain View County Agricultural Services Board (MVC) in Canada, after discussing this issue in 2005, and presenting it a year later at the Conference of the Provincial Board of Agricultural Service, began to develop a groundwork with the Mountain View Regional Waste Management Commission (MVRWMC), to address the issue of agricultural plastic waste in a comprehensive way in order to know what to do with them and how to try to promote a program specially designed to recycle agricultural plastics.
Is it necessary to implement an agricultural recycling program?
Today, some still believe we don’t really need a program of this kind but being able to have strategies to improve the quality of agricultural practices globally is of the utmost importance.
Along with these strategies are awareness campaigns that can be addressed to make known how harmful it is to incinerate plastics, since they release toxins that are damaging to humans and the environment, aside from being illegal in many countries such as Canada for example, specifically in Alberta, where there is a Substance Release Regulation of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
Benefits of recycling agricultural plastics
An agricultural recycling programme reduces the reliance on the landfills of the farm, the burning of barrels and minimizes the amount of waste from agricultural plastic products entering landfill systems. Also, producers can save a lot of capital by recycling agricultural plastics, since they would be avoiding the rates due to the transfer station. Everyday more people join those who support these types of programs that benefit producers, residents and the agricultural industry in general.
One of the key factors to promote the practice of recycling agricultural plastic is motivating farmers. There are some programs such as the Farm Plastic Round-up, administered by Mountain View County (MVC) that since 2007 has been responsible for motivating local residents, whether agricultural producers or not, as well as local club owners, to deliver a minimum of 100 kg of agricultural waste plastic for recycling (net wrap, tarpaulins, cords and silage), and the first 100 people who achieve the goal will receive a compensation of $100 in return, according to information provided by Mountain View County.
Biodegradable agricultural plastics
There are other alternatives to recycling such as the use of biodegradable plastics for mulching, an option that could be sustainable because it is less invasive, greener and helps to significantly reduce the amount of agricultural waste as a result of the use of plastics. However, there are some factors that farmers must keep in mind, such as some regulations that allow the use of biodegradable mulching as long as the materials used in their manufacture have a 100% biological base.
For many agricultural producers the main inconvenience is the manufacturing cost of these plastics. To learn more about this topic we recommend reading the article how biodegradable plastics can help reduce environmental impact.
There are several factors involved in the biodegradation of a biopolymer and, to evaluate the effectiveness of this type of plastics, some laboratories have conducted experiments ranging from the design of its specific chemical structure to the use of germs that facilitate the decomposing process of these films. There are other important aspects, such as temperature and the pH and humidity levels of the subsoil that can trigger and accelerate the degradation of these plastic films. To find out more about this topic, we recommend the article: advantages, disadvantages and different applications of biodegradable plastics.
Efforts are currently underway to collect and recycle the largest amount of agricultural plastics worldwide; however, these problems could be solved in the near future.
If you want to know more about the world of recycling, its advantages and its impact worldwide, the sixth edition of the Agricultural Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show, will take place next year 2020 from August 19th to the 21st in the spaces of the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina in San Diego, California, United States. APRC is a recycling industry network forum that brings together plastic recyclers, brokers, farmers, nursery managers, agricultural plastics manufacturers and government officials to discuss solutions for landfilling and the open burning of agricultural plastic waste.