Reducing the plastic footprint of agriculture – EIP-AGRI Focus Group

The use of plastic for several decades on European farms allowed farmers to increase and improve their production. The uses are diverse e.g. greenhouses, low tunnels, mulching, irrigation, silage wraps etc. The economy of a lot of rural territory in EU and economic sectors depends on plastic and it is essential for many farms. But, like other inputs in agriculture, (e.g. pesticides, fertilizers, fuels), plastics can cause damage to the environment. Policymakers, environmentalists, researchers, industries, farmers organizations have to work together to find a good balance between economic interests and environmental challenges.

To face the issue of plastic at the farm level, one way is to reduce the use of plastic; this can be achieved in different ways:
Try to reduce or avoid the packaging of the inputs of the farm: for example, prefer bulk fertilizer to fertilizer in bags or big bags.
Prefer an agricultural technique that does not use plastic or reduce its use in the process of production. For example: replace silage by hay in cattle production.
Reuse the plastic on the farm: if used correctly, without damage, the tarpaulins can be reused from one year to the next. Sometimes plastic products cannot be used again after the first use for the same function but can be used in other activities on the farm. For example, in Poland, film from covering silage for dairy cows is very often reused as a protection in grain handling and storing. Generally, farmers could be very successful in reusing plastic containers and foil for use in daily farm routine. However, the capacity to reuse the plastic on the farm is limited. Due to this fact we should be focused on large scale solutions, which could be adopted in every farm, regardless of the region or farm’s size.
Change the cropping system: in some cases cover crops, or crop diversification can replace some functions of the plastic films.
All those alternatives are more or less easy to implement on the farm. Some of them are cheap and costefficient, but some others need more investment, e.g. a change to the production system: in these cases, reducing the use of plastic is an economic risk.

More information about Minipaper D: Agricultural management, on site practice to reduce plastic use and the contamination in the environment


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  • Tasos on December 8, 2021 @ 19:10:55

This post was created by Concha Avila on September 19, 2021.