Environmentally degradable polymeric materials (EDPM) in agricultural applications — an overview
Polimery 2002, No 7/8, 538
Owing to their low production cost, good physical properties and lightweight, plastic objects have slowly substituted glass, paper and metals in several fields of application including agriculture. At the same time, the current huge global production of plastics (200 million tons/year) has generated an enormous environmental concerns, mainly related to the waste generation by plastic packaging, which are responsible for 35—40% share of annual plastics consumption. Where recovery of plastics is not economically feasible, viable, controllable or attractive, plastics often remain as litter. This is the case in most of agricultural applications of polymeric materials. The market for biodegradable polymers is at this moment focusing on products in which biodegradability provides beneficial effects (e.g. waste-disposal, recycling) and a number of biodegradable materials are already being marketed or are close to market introduction and customer acceptance. This overview is meant to provide an outline on the history and recent developments in biodegradable polymeric materials applied in agricultural practices with particular reference to the mulching segment. Special attention has been devoted to material based on renewable resources or utilization of waste products from the agroindustrial sector, thus suggesting cost-effective and environmentally sound solutions to specific social needs.
Keywords: environmentally degradable plastics, plastic waste, agricultural applications, mulching