Give us today our daily plastic

Give us today our daily plastic 1920 768 flustix

What do plastics do in the fields? Nothing, according to common sense. Nevertheless, more than 13,200 tons of plastic and other synthetic materials end up in our fields every year. Yet every year, more than 13200 tons of primary plastics and other synthetic materials end up in our fields due to their use in agriculture. Is that a lot? The environmental protection organization NABU illustrates how great the burden is on the soil and thus also on our food:

To be precise, 13256 tons of plastic end up on agricultural land every year as a result of cultivation. On top of this, there are around 5800 tons of plastic waste that is thrown away somewhere and blows onto fields and pastures. Converting the amount to one hectare might give you a better idea: 1.1 kilograms of plastics land on each hectare every year.

The figures come from a NABU study that also defines the causes of the pollution: Wastewater sludge polluted with plastics, composts and remains of fermentation that is spread on the field. In addition, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds that contain polymers or are coated with polymers.

So is agriculture to blame? Not quite as simple as that.

Three-quarters of emissions come from fertilizers. “Here, agriculture and horticulture are the sufferers of third-party pollution,” the NABU study states.

The causes in detail:

  • Plastic waste thrown incorrectly into the organic waste container,
  • Tire wear, which goes through wastewater into sewage treatment plants and thus into sewage sludge,
  • Textile fibers, especially from cheap fashion made from plastic fibers.

The cultivation methods of conventional agriculture also contribute to soil damage. For example, pesticides applied to seeds come in capsules or in coated films. According to recent studies, exposure to microplastics does exactly the opposite of what is intended: the plastics can trigger delayed germination and inhibit root growth (Leiden University, Netherlands).

What can farmers do to protect the soil ecosystem?

Especially in conventional agriculture, organically produced additives are not considered suitable: poor price-performance ratio, lower yields. A solution disproving this assumption comes from the Netherlands. There, the company Ad Terram is developing microplastic-free solutions for seed treatments.

Bio stimulants are among these solutions. These are substances or microorganisms such as microbe cultures that are applied to the seed or plant to stimulate growth naturally. These substances are distributed as pellets, in liquid or in powder form – basically microplastic-free, independently tested and certified by flustix with the “flustix MIKROPLASTIKFREI” seal.

Such innovations help European agriculture to implement the regulations on the use of fertilizers tightened by ECHA – the EU’s European Chemicals Agency – in Regulation 2019/1009.

And – they protect our food in the long term. So far, there are no reliable findings on the extent to which microplastics end up in our food via soil. But the experts at NABU warn: “The plastics introduced into the soil rarely degrade, and microplastics cannot be retrieved from the soil at all.” So the amount is continuously growing. Continued contamination will therefore have negative effects on our food in the medium or long term.

Image Credits: Alejandro Barrón from Pexels