The plastic waste littering beaches and oceans attracts a lot of attention. However, the Food and Agriculture Organizations (F&A) (FAO) Assessment of agricultural plastics sustainability: a call to actionThis suggests that the land used to grow our food may be contaminated with more plastic pollutants.
Soils are one of the main recipients of agricultural plasticsAccording to Maria Helena Semedo, FAO’s Deputy Director General Maria Helena Semedo, oceans are known to contain higher levels of microplastics than oceans.
These are some startling numbers
FAO experts have compiled data showing that each year agricultural value chains use 12.5 million tonnes of polymers, while 37.3 millions are used in food packaging.
Crop production and livestock together accounted for 10.2 millions tonnes per annum. Followed by aquaculture and fisheries with 2.1 million and forestry with 0.22 million tonnes.
According to estimates, Asia was the largest consumer of plastics in agriculture productionNearly half of all global plastic usage is in the United States. Plastic demand in agriculture is only going to rise, even though there aren’t any viable alternatives.
Ms. Semedo stressed the need to monitor the amount of plastic that is being produced by agriculture as the demand for it continues to rise.
Be aware of the risks
Since their widespread introduction in 1950s, Plastics are now ubiquitous.
Plastic products can greatly increase productivity in agriculture. These include nets to cover soil and reduce weeds; nets that protect and enhance plant growth, extend cropping periods, and increase yields; and trees guards that protect seedlings against animals and create a growth-enhancing microclimate.
However, almost 80 percent of the estimated 6.3 million tonnes of plastics manufactured before 2015 had never been properly disposed.
Although the effects of large plastic objects on marine fauna are well documented, their disintegration can have devastating consequences for entire ecosystems.
Nowhere is safe from microplastics
Microplastics of less than 5mm in size have been detected in human feces as well as placentas. They also have been transmitted to fetuses via their mothers’ pregnancy.
Although most of the scientific research on plastics pollution is focused on aquatic ecosystems, experts at FAO say that agricultural soils may be exposed to far more microplastics.
Because 93% of global agricultural activity takes place on land, more research is necessary in this area. According toThe UN agency.
This report is a strong call to action to encourage good management practices in agriculture and to reduce the harmful use of plastics, stated the FAO deputy chief.
Plastics cannot be banned because there aren’t any viable alternatives. There are also no solutions to the damage they cause.
However, the report does offer several solutions based upon the Refuse, Redesign. Reduce, Reuse. Recycle. model.
The report recommends the development of a voluntary code of conduct covering all aspects of plastics in agrifood chains. It also calls for more research on the health effects of micro-and nanoplastics.
Ms. Semedo indicated that FAO will continue its important role in addressing the issue of agricultural plastics holistically, within the contexts food security, food safety, and biodiversity, as well as sustainable agriculture.