The use of plastics in agriculture helps farmers increase crop production, improve food quality and reduce the ecological footprint of their activity. Not only do plastics allow for vegetables and fruits to be grown throughout the year, no matter the season, these products are also usually of better quality than those grown in an open field.
Innovative and sustainable solutions: Thanks to the use of different plastics in agriculture, water can be saved and crops can even be planted in deserts. Plastic irrigation pipes prevent wastage of water and nutrients, rain water can be retained in reservoirs built with plastics, and the use of pesticides can be reduced by keeping crops in a closed space such as a greenhouse or, for mulching, under a plastic film.
Greenhouses and tunnels
Greenhouses and tunnels are like intensive-care units. Plants are exposed to the sunlight and can grow in ideal conditions, with protection from harmful external conditions.
Plastic reservoirs and irrigation systems
When combined, plastic reservoirs and plastic irrigation systems make an essential contribution to water management. Water can be stored in dams covered with plastic to avoid leaking and distributed via pipes, drop irrigation systems and systems for water circulation.
This application, which was developed to store animals’ grain and straw during the winter, is another proof of the value of plastics. Plastic films used to store silage are resistant and the content can be stored for years.
Include boxes; crates for crop collecting, handling and transport; components for irrigation systems like fittings and spray cones; tapes that help hold the aerial parts of the plants in the greenhouses, or even nets to shade the interior of the greenhouses or reduce the effects of hail.
A wide range of plastics are used in agriculture, including, polyolefin, polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Ethylene-Vinyl Accetate Copolymer (EVA), Poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) and, in less frequently, Polycarbonate (PC) and poly-methyl-methacrylate (PMMA).
Recycling and recovery opportunities: At the end of their life cycle, agricultural plastics such as greenhouse covers can be recycled. Once retrieved from the fields, plastics are usually washed to eliminate sand, herbs and pesticides, before being ground and extruded into pellets. The material can then be used again in the manufacturing of articles such as outdoor furniture.
Courtesy of PlasticsEurope.