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Microplastic pollution threatens our soils and food safety

On our blog, we often draw your attention to the plastic pollution that is damaging our oceans. If it’s vital for us to protect them, we also need to be careful about our soils. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report suggests that the land in which we grow our food is even more contaminated with plastics than oceans.

Scientific evidence

FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo said in a report that: “Soils are one of the main receptors of agricultural plastics and are known to contain larger quantities of microplastics than oceans”. According to the FAO report, 12.5 million tonnes of plastic products were used in plant and animal production in 2019, while another 37.3 million were used in food packaging.

Plastic is a cheap material, easy to make into products, and versatile as the report highlights. In agriculture, plastic products are used to cover soil, protect and boost plant growth (greenhouse).

A growing issue?

It’s no surprise that the report reveals that “agricultural plastics also pose a serious risk of pollution and harm to human and ecosystem health when they are damaged, degraded or discarded in the environment”.

Data on plastic use is quite limited. But, we know that Asia was estimated to be the largest user of plastics in agricultural production, accounting for about half of global usage. Moreover, without viable alternatives, plastic demand in agriculture is only set to increase. Indeed, the global demand for products such as greenhouse, mulching, silage films is expected to rise by 50% by 2030.

How to do beterre?

We know that only a small fraction of agricultural plastics are collected and recycled. So you may wonder what’s the solution. In the report, it seems that some solutions can be brought thanks to the “6R model” — refuse, redesign, reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover.

So, this means adopting agricultural practices that avoid the use of plastic. For example, by opting for natural and biodegradable alternatives, by promoting reusable plastic products, and by improving plastic waste management.

And what can we do? As consumers, it’s important to buy local products. It’s also important to pay attention to labels and to choose bio food. That way, you will make sure that you’re not participating in increasing the plastic issue.

References

https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/1107342

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