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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.

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"Snow does not often fall on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. But when it snows, it snows plastics. Together with the flakes, tiny microplastics fall out of the clouds - 4000 kilometers from civilization. It's a gift from the wind".

Independent swiss newspaper WOZ has visited Minagris partners at the University of Bern and FiBL. They have written an illustrative piece on the work of Minagris and microplastics situation globally. Click here for the original German language version, or here for an English tanslation. 

Sampling CollageSoil sampling for plastic analysis has now begun across our 11 Europe-wide case study sites. This stage of the project took a good deal of planning to ensure that we have minimised the risk of our samples being contaminated with plastic particles shed from our equipment. For example, our microplastic samples are being collected in alternatives to the usual plastic sampling pots; instead, we are collecting them in paper bags, often lined with foil.

We are sampling for macro-, micro- and nano-plastics in fields across our sites. These samples are then being carefully packaged to avoid plastic contamination before being sent to different labs for specialist analysis of their soil type, plastic content and microbiomes.

For further information on our sampling protocol, please don’t hesitate to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We hope to have sampling completed by October, when we will begin our analysis. In the meantime, enjoy our stream of photos from our sampling campaign!

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Today we co-hosted the Minagris x Papillons' joint stakeholder forum on "Plasticulture: An International Perspective on Environmental Sustainability". This was a joint effort from our partnership with Papillons, another EU Horizon2020 funded research programme focussed on agri-plastics and soils. 

Here, partners, stakeholders and organisations presented in Greece and online from across the world, including the FAO, UNEP, and European Bioplatics. They discussed plastics in agriculture, specifically in acricultural soils, both intentional and unintentional. There was talk of where these plastics come from, how they get there, why they are useful in food security, what harm they can do to plants, animals & microbes, and what the ramifications of this might be now and into the future. 

We look forward to a thriving partnership with Papillions going forwards, and excited to read their findings as they emerge!

Micro  and nano Plastics in agricultural soils (4)

The MINAGRIS consortia is pleased to present a detailed plan of the experiments that will be undertaken as part of the project, at experimental scales of increasing complexity (from microcosms to field). These experiments will help us to determine the potential effects of microplastics on the soil biota, either alone or in combination with other common organic pollutants of agricultural soils, on the soil biota (across trophic levels in the soil food web), identify the underlying mechanisms driving these effects and examine its reciprocal consequences on agricultural productivity. This experimental plan could be used as a guide and benchmark for future assessment of the potential effects of novel plastic products on the soil biota under a revised regulatory framework.