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Microplastics in agriculture: Wachtberg people annoyed about plastic bands on young plants

Microplastics in agriculture : Wachtberg people annoyed about plastic bands on young plants

Not all fruit growers in the Wachtberger Ländchen remove the plastic for growing young plants in a timely manner. The Naturschutzbund Deutschland (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Association of Germany), however, sees a general increase in environmental awareness among farmers.

Dead whales with tons of plastic waste in their stomachs, plastic packaging washed ashore on what were once dream beaches - these images have shocked many in 2019. "But we don't have to look only to other countries to be outraged," says a Wachtberger, who wants to remain anonymous. Due to his hobby, he travels a lot in the country. "And I have noticed that agriculture leaves behind microplastics in many parts of the town," says the Wachtberger. Specifically, he is interested in fixing young plants with plastic straps.

On the plant itself, the ribbons only disturb the man to a limited extent. "But since they are not removed, the wind carries them around in tens of thousands, and they end up in the ground." Which is thus contaminated by the microplastic particles.

On request, the municipality stated that the general problem was known and had already been addressed by the Round Table "Protected Cultivation in Agriculture". "However, neither the municipal administration nor the Round Table have received any reports or complaints about the danger of microplastics due to small plastic bands used to fasten young plants," said press spokeswoman Margrit Märtens.

Paper ribbons only suitable for greenhouse cultivation according to experts

The blue ribbons are so-called Max ribbons from a manufacturer, which are used to attach young plants to planting rods, explained Ferdinand Völzgen, Chairman of the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg Fruit Growing Section. "These are in fact made of plastic because they are exposed to the weather and high mechanical stress," said Völzgen, who has his company in Plittersdorf. The ribbons are also available in paper, but then they are only suitable for growing under glass.

After the leaves fall, the planting rods are removed and the ribbons are torn apart at the stapling point. "All our fruit-growing colleagues are sensitised to plastic waste in the field and ensure that this waste is disposed of properly", emphasised the chairman of the specialist group. However, this never happens in parallel, and since many member companies have several areas of plant cultivation, the work could be delayed. Völzgen now wants to draw attention to this topic again in one of the forthcoming letters to his colleagues.

NABU sees the "contamination of water" as the biggest problem with microplastics. "We would like to see a different way of dealing with plastic and find the carelessness with its handling frightening. This affects our entire society and includes farmers and fruit growers, who of course do not necessarily behave any better than the rest of society," said biologist Monika Hachtel from the Bonn district group.

NABU points out the lack of alternatives

In this profession, too, there are those who act very properly and have clean facilities, and the others. "However, we are noticing a heightened awareness among the fruit growers of our Pro Planet project and meanwhile a great deal of interest in changing such things," said Hachtel. She has the impression that many farmers are not happy with the situation either. "But for one thing, the basic conditions are not right, because due to the cheap food prices only efficiency counts, and collecting plastic by hand is costly. On the other hand, there are still almost no alternatives," the conservationist explained.

The use of plastic is also becoming increasingly important in the area of film, used in asparagus and strawberry cultivation. "And there are already promising alternatives in the direction of plastic reduction, recycling and the use of degradable bioplastics films," said Hachtel. But the more environmentally friendly films are, as almost always, significantly more expensive and we are only at the beginning.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Tree Nursery Association in the Association of German Nurseries is also observing the microplastic problem. "In recent years, more and more attention has been paid to removing plastic cords or bite protection made of plastic as well as all plastic bindings from the quarters prematurely", said chairman Christoph Dirksen, who is the managing director of Wilhelm Ley GmbH in Meckenheim. If a field is cleared or if plants are removed, all plastic ties and remains are removed from the plant in advance.

Original text: Silke Elbern

Translation: Mareike Graepel