Identify and evaluate possible alternative solutions in the agricultural sector in Cyprus – Cyprus International Institute of Management.
Although the agricultural sector is not the largest user of plastics, their rapid appearance on farms worldwide is quietly turning into a substantial pollution concern. Versatile and economical as they are, plastic products are found all over farms. Most frequently used are plastic films covering greenhouses, soil-covering mulches, irrigation tubes and plastic plant support. Moreover, plastics are the container of agriculture chemicals and fertilise and plastic fruit and vegetable packaging.
Nowadays farms are use millions of tons of plastics each year, in order to save water, dissuade bags, suppress weeds with less reliance on chemicals. Most agricultural plastics are single-season use and sooner or later, nearly all plastics end up abandoned in the fields near farms or in landfills, incinerators, waste-to-energy plants, or places where they were never intended to go or remain.
Used plastics can be too costly to remove from farms, and hence are left to pollute the land. Plastics are also pouring into the world’s oceans. Yet more than unsightly, discarded plastics can damage farmland and cause harm to humans and wildlife alike, making their durability a long-term pollution and public health worry.
Recycling plastic products from farms is a challenge because of the soil, moisture and plant debris. For instance, the packages of the pesticide products have to collect with a certain procedure due to the harmful chemicals ingredients they contained. On the other hand, weathering and mechanical constraints can create plastic debris, which can enter easily the environment. A high plastic content has been identified in many fields, and the long-term effects of plastic contamination in the terrestrial environment remain uncertain. Plastic debris and, to a greater extent, microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) can be transported by the wind and by run-off water to rivers, dams and seas, where they threaten ecosystems. Especially in Cyprus where a lot of fields are neighbouring the sea, where the wind can easily drift the small plastics or nylons to the sea and be swallowed by fish and turtles.
Based on these prerequisites, the Focus Group was established to answer the question: How to reduce the plastic footprint in agriculture? The group identified the state of the art of the current plastic uses in agriculture and the associated issues. The group discussed existing solutions to reduce the use of plastic, avoid debris with biodegradable plastics, limit the contamination from microplastics, collect waste in an efficient way, and recycle the plastics.
How to reduce the plastic footprint in agriculture?
Different strategies can be applied to reduce the plastic footprint in agriculture. This project summarised the discussions of experts and stakeholders about practical experiences to reduce the negative effects of plastic use in agriculture.
The question of how to reduce the plastic footprint in agriculture was addressed through a collection of specific tasks:
- Identification of the main use and properties of plastics in farming activities, and their advantages or threats for the sustainability of agricultural production
- Identification of the indirect sources of plastic contamination such as the use of contaminated bio fertilisers or waste water
- Review of existing knowledge about the impact of plastic on the agricultural environment
- Discussion of the existing practices as well as limitations for the reduction of plastic use, its recycling and its degradability in the environment
- Exploration of opportunities and needs for innovations to reduce/replace the use of plastics while maintaining the economic and environmental performance of the farm
- Presentation of the existing monitoring methods and suggestion for ideas for improvement in this area
The expected results from the project include:
The project aims in informing the relevant to agriculture stakeholders in sustainably managing the plastic used for their purposes while at the same time finding alternatives to the current product if possible. Nevertheless, farmers and people dealing in the specific sector are hard to communicate with.
The project aims to:
- Identify the main use of plastics in farming activities, and their advantages or threats for the sustainability of agricultural production.
- Review existing knowledge about the impact of plastic on the agricultural environment.
- Explore opportunities to reduce the use of plastics while maintaining the economic and environmental performance of the farm.
- Identify innovative alternatives to plastic used in agriculture.
- Develop a set of good farm practices to reduce, reuse and recycle the plastic used in agriculture.
- Identify remaining research needs from practice and propose possible directions for further research on plastic use reduction.
- Suggest priorities for innovative actions by suggesting ideas for Operational Groups to test solutions in reducing the use of plastics in agriculture.
- Inform agro-stakeholders about the environmental and health issues in leaving the plastic in the fields