The Project

PAPILLONS is the acronym for Plastic in Agricultural Production: Impacts, Life-cycle and LONg-term Sustainability

The majority of micro(nano)plastic research has been concentrated on the marine environment. Whilst the ocean represents an ultimate sink for contamination, this focus overlooked key processes and pathways of micro(nano)plastics in the terrestrial environment that are of critical importance for their global environmental budget and exposure of humans and biota. Lack of robust analytical methods for the isolation of these materials from complex, organic-rich soil matrices represent a major hindrance. Regardless, soils in agricultural and urban areas are expected to represent major environmental reservoirs of micro(nano)plastics, possibly comprehensively larger than the marine one. Additionally, soils exhibit several potential exposure pathways for micro(nano)plastics to organism and human health, including contamination of groundwater aquifers.

Agricultural Plastics

Plastic is an important commodity in farming, improving crop protection and performance. About 2 Mt polymers are converted to Agricultural Plastics (APs) annually in Europe. Between 3 and 4 Mt AP are currently in use in Europe, generating 1 Mt waste. Inventories of these materials’ usage, composition and handling are fragmentary.

Over one third is used for protected cultivation films (greenhouse, tunnel, covers and mulching films) and micro-irrigation systems. Silage, wraps and containers represent other important applications. During use and end-of-life some AP degrade and generate fragments including micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) that can accumulate in soil on a transitory or permanent basis. The long-term impacts of this pollution are unknown.

Our goal is to study the sources, behaviour and ecological effects of micro- and nanoplastics in agricultural soils, resulting from the use of agricultural plastics. Our aim is to limit the existing knowledge gaps by our research and to become a “one-stop-shop” of easily digestible information on micro and nano plastics in particular, and on plastic pollution in agricultural soils in general.

How is the work structured?

The project is structured around 6 work packages, with specific tasks for each partners, and specific topics:  

WP1 – MNP properties and sources to farm soil

WP2 -Behaviour and transport

WP3 -Ecological effects

WP4 -Production and sustainability impacts

WP5 -Communication, dissemination, exploitation

WP6 -Project Management

Find out more of the concept of the work here!

© Salla Selonen, 2020

Key themes that will be adressed during the project

  • Farm scale

    management of plastic waste

    impacts on yield and profit

    societal impacts

    stakeholder interaction

    impacts on agricultural productivity

    use of agrochemicals

    impact on agricultural practices

    transport to freshwater & groundwater environments

  • Field scale

    fragmentation and ageing of plastic

    impacts on soil invertebrates

    impacts on soil microbiota

    impacts on soil properties

    impacts on plant production and health

    behaviour in soil

    release of chemicals

Soils & micro(nano)plastic

Soils may represent the largest global environmental reservoirs of micro(nano)plastic.

The issue

Soil systems have the potential to store micro(nano)plastics. There is a paucity of observational data due to methodological difficulties.

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