Changes may be on the way in many materials used on farms, due to the European Commission’s strategy since 2018 to reduce plastic as an environmental pollutant.
Currently, it is being decided which materials may be restricted. Among them are likely to be polymers utilised for controlled- release fertilisers, capsule suspension plant protection products, seed coatings, and biocides.
These are intentionally added microplastics — small, sometimes microscopic, solid particles made of synthetic polymers, which are added to consumer and industrial products to serve a functional purpose (such as polymers used for seed coatings).
Such microplastics are commonly used in both agriculture and horticulture. Next spring, the Commission is expected to decide which intentionally added microplastics to restrict.
All importers and downstream users of substances containing intentionally added microplastics with a concentration equal to or greater than 0.01% weight by weight are expected to comply with the new legislation.
Compliance will include a transition period, with five to ten years allowed for controlled-release fertilisers, for example. But some products, such as fertiliser caking agents, have a transition period as short as 12 months.
Already, the European Seed Association has highlighted the difficulty of finding proportional biodegradable alternatives for traditional seed coatings, and called for a 10-year transition.