News

Plastics in Agriculture is it Carcinogenic !

Usage of Plastic in the  life cannot be stopped. It has so penetrated in our life that day to day working is affected with the same. It looks so simple to sue the plastic but disposable is problematic.

Plastic is a boon to mankind. It has proved to be very useful in all walks of life. Plastic is used as carry bag helpful to carry things. It is used by all the people, it is easily available as well as cheap. We cannot imagine our lives without it. It has become necessity of our lives. Earlier bags made out of cotton or jute were used. But, with the invent of plastic, these bags are replaced by plastic bags as aesthetically they look good and have become much commercialized. We are surrounded by plastic everywhere. Plastic bottles, plastic chairs, plastic toys are used by all. Even plastic containers has taken its place in our kitchen as they are easy to handle and quick to wash. Good quality plastics are unbreakable and are used in the manufacture of various articles like television, tape recorder, computers etc....In our day to day lives we use pens, boxes and many electrical appliances which are all made by plastics.

Plastic is very harmful to our health. It cannot be destroyed easily. Soil loses its fertility, if plastic is buried in the land. Water will become polluted and disease prone if plastic is dumped into it. It can be destroyed to some extent, only if it is burnt. Even after burning, it's physical form gets destroyed but it still exists in the gaseous form. It takes the form of some dangerous gas when it is burnt and there by pollute the environment. Also, due to it global warming has been increasing. Plastics can take thousands of years to decay. On consumption innumerable animals, birds and fishes die every year. Thus, it is not only harmful to human beings, in fact causing harm to other living beings too.

We are using plastics deliberately even in the places, where it's use is no way required. If we have to protect our environment we need to check its production. Plastics cannot be destroyed. Already tons of plastic is produced on daily basis, which after use, lingers over here and there. This has to be checked. Recycling is the best method. Instead of producing new , the older can be recycled as it is a non biodegradable object. Wherever not required, it's usage has to be stopped. We should cultivate the habit of using cloth bags or paper bags instead of plastic bags. Instead of using plastic containers, China clay containers can be used which look authentic and more beautiful. Instead of dumping water bottles here and there, should be sent to recycling.

Usage of plastic cannot be stopped completely. But, it's use can be decreased gradually. It is boon as well as curse to mankind. It is very beneficial and to rule out disadvantages and protect our environment it should be used cautiously and wherever required and not carelessly, as safeguarding our environment is our prime duty.

The use of plastics in agriculture, is evident in the form of lining of farm ponds, greenhouse cultivation, micro-irrigation (drips and sprinklers) and plastic mulching. Plastic mulch, in particular, should be of concern to us as it is a potential source of entry into our food system.

Why are farmers turning to plasticulture? -The Ministry of Agriculture believes that its optimal application is a step in the right direction to achieve the overall vision of doubling farm income by 2022.

The key benefits of plasticulture include;

1. Increase in crop yields

2. Reduced use of water (~30-40%) and other agricultural inputs like agro chemicals and fertilisers. Plasticulture can well be imbibed in the mainframe system within the ambit of sustainable agriculture practices domestically.

3. Its effective implementation is likely to result in robust food grain production and consequent rise in agriculture GDP in excess of 4 per cent.

What are the problems with plasticulture? - As with the concern over plastics in other sector, there are issues with their application in agriculture also.  The plastic film residue can:

4. decrease soil porosity and air circulation

5. change microbial communities

6. lower farmland fertility

7. enter into the food chain

Fragments of plastic film have been shown to release potentially carcinogenic phthalate acid esters (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility) into soil, where they can be absorbed by crops and pose human health risk when food is consumed.

The fragments of plastic film left in fields can also accumulate pesticides and other toxins applied to crops. This is a risk for sheep, goats and other livestock grazing on crop stalks because of their potential to ingest plastic material or the chemicals that leach from it.

When cotton crops are grown in plastic-contaminated soil, there is a risk of lint being contaminated. If that were to happen, the quality of output is downgraded because traces of plastic can interfere with the colouring process. This could decrease the commercial value of crops, increase consumer anxiety and cause huge losses in traditional cotton growing areas.

Another issue with regard to plastic mulch (films) is that it is not easy to recover and reuse them. Although films in US, Europe and even India are thicker than 15-20 microns, Chinese films are less than half the thickness of those films and go down to about 8 microns.  That thinness makes the material less robust and more difficult to recover after use.

What are our alternatives? -  “There are alternative natural materials obtained from plants and animals, and newer generation bio-polymers which are plastics made from biomass sources,” says Crispino Lobo, ManagingTrustee of Watershed Organisation Trust. He also highlights a recent UN report which talks about conventional alternatives to plastics—such as paper, cotton, and wood—as well as less obvious solutions, including algae, fungi and pineapple leaves—among others.

According to Lobo, some of the solutions, especially when it comes to agriculture, might come with a little more physical effort like using organic mulch or others like biodegradable materials that come at slightly higher cost. Therefore, state and national policies have to come to the rescue to incentivise good and responsible behaviour.

While government’s efforts to ban single use plastics and enforce penalties for non-compliance is laudable, there is a need for action that goes beyond bans and address use of plastics across all sectors so that we can avert contamination of our soil, water, food and air.  That is why traditional resource management principles of reuse, reduce, recycle will continue to hold true, according to Lobo.

 

Chander Mohan

Krishi Jagran/New Delhi



Share your comments