Research news

Sustainable use of plastic in agriculture

Photograph: Personal archive

Publish Date: 14.07.2021

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 15 Life on land (Indicators)

In recent decades the use of plastic in agriculture has grown in leaps and bounds, and this can be observed every day in our surroundings. It is estimated that European farmers use 3-4 tons of plastic annually and in doing so generate as much as a ton of waste. The main use is for cover foils and fibres, greenhouses, irrigation systems, hay wrapping, packaging for fertiliser and other preparations and seed wrappers. Plastic can gradually decompose in the environment into small plastic particles called nanoplastic and microplastic. How these tiny particles impact the land environment is to a great extent unknown. 

 slika 3

Frequent use of plastic in agriculture (photograph: Anita Jemec Kokalj)

In 2021 the four-year international project Papillons (Plastic in Agricultural Production: Impacts, Lifecycles and LONg-term Sustainability) was started as part of the Horizon 2020 RIA and the programme SFS-21-2020: Challenges for soil management. The project is being coordinated by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), and involves the participation of 20 partner institutions including the University of Ljubljana.

The aim of the Papillons project is to research: the main sources of releasing agricultural plastic into the soil, the processes of degradation and ageing of plastic in the soil and the long-term environmental and socio-economic impacts of the use of agricultural plastic in Europe. The main outcome of the project will be a thorough knowledge of the issue of using agricultural plastic, which will enable support for innovations in the area of developing sustainably oriented agricultural plastics and support for the implementation of appropriate legislation to regulate the use of these products and waste management.

slika 4

The issue of plastic use in agriculture and aims of the Papillons project (diagram: Norwegian Institute for Water Research)

The project applicant on the part of the University of Ljubljana is the Biotechnical Faculty. It involves the active participation of researchers from the Department of Biology, specifically the Nanobiology and Nanotoxicology Group. The Slovenian coordinator of the project is Assist. Prof. Dr Anita Jemec Kokalj. Another project participant is the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, at which research will be headed by Assist. Prof. Dr Gabriela Kalčikova.


Parallel to this is a research project under the auspices of the Slovenian Research Agency on the topic of: 

back to list