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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Eco-Entrepreneurship Project
(2022)

AgPlastic Solutions (Eco-E)

Corn field against blue sky

Group Members: Annie Lovell, Craig Kopulsky, Shelby Smith, Kerry Nixon

Faculty Advisors: Ashley Larsen

Description

Plastic has been used as an agricultural input since the 1950’s, and use of plastic in agriculture continues to increase each year. One of the primary agricultural plastic products is plastic mulch film, which accounts for about 40% of the $17 billion global agricultural plastics market. Plastic mulch films provide a variety of benefits to farmers, such as controlling soil temperature, conserving water, reducing pesticide use, controlling erosion, and significantly increasing crop yields. However, despite the benefits, the long-term costs of plastic mulch may outweigh these short-term gains. While on the field, plastic mulch degrades into microplastic fragments that pollute the land and nearby water resources. New research also indicates that plastic materials degrade soil quality, increase uptake of toxic chemicals in crops, and inhibit carbon sequestration. Plastic mulch only lasts for one growing season. The plastic cannot be reused and it is challenging to recycle. Therefore it is generally landfilled, buried, or burned. The U.S. alone produces about 126 million pounds of plastic mulch film waste each year. AgPlastic Solutions aims to mitigate the environmental impacts of this agricultural practice by developing either an alternative to plastic mulch or providing an end-of-life solution for the plastic waste.

Eco-E advisor: Emily Cotter

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