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Photo credit: Canva

Our UK team has recently finished sampling agricultural fields for plastics large and small as part of the MINAGRIS project. During this time, it has become increasingly clear that we have a compost problem.

Municipal compost is made with our kitchen countertop and garden green waste collections. When it first arrived at scale as an option for farmers to apply this valuable source of organic matter to their fields and boost their soil carbon, it seemed like a win-win. It had the potential to bring otherwise wasted nutrients back into the food system, saving them from stinking out our bins before ending up in landfill or an incinerator. This was a bold shift towards a more circular economy, which had the potential to be great for soils and farm profitability.

The problem is the high plastic content. Farmers and growers initially eager to make use of this black gold to improve their soil health quickly realised that the plastic content of municipal compost was so high that they were no longer happy putting it on their land. This came up repeatedly in our farmer interviews and whilst we were sampling. Our initial enquiries indicate that this seems to be a widespread understanding within the farming and market gardening communities, not just in the UK but Europe-wide.

This video, filmed by Marina Pintar whilst on holiday in Croatia, shows an ant colony carrying plastic debris across an agricultural field. MINAGRIS will strive to assess the environmental implications of having these plastics present in soils across Europe. Watch this video to find out. 

 

 

 MINAGRIS, over the next 5 years, will explore the impacts of plastic debris on agricultural soil health. This blog explains what plastics are, the extent to which they are used in agriculture across Europe, and the potential environmental health threats posed by plastic debris in soil.

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Photo credits: Plastics Europe, Wageningen Food & Biobased research, Tuinadvies, Kalliergeia, Future Farming, Teal Agrotechnologies

 

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