GAIA BIOMATERIALS SETS ITS SIGHTS ON THE MULCH FILM MARKET
GAIA BIOMATERIALS SETS ITS SIGHTS
ON THE MULCH FILM MARKET
Mulch films are a crucial part of modern agricultural practices, with an estimated market value of USD3,5 Bn in 2020. But new findings suggest that mulch films contribute to the very problems they are meant to tackle, with microplastic pollution, resulting in diminishing returns from the agricultural areals available. As a leading developer of biodegradable and compostable biomaterials, GAIA has monitored the challenges associated with the mulch film market for a long time. Knowing fully well that the development of a challenging new product is a marathon, rather than a sprint, GAIA has worked methodically to bridge the hurdles associated with mulch film materials before entering the final development phase.
Mulch films and microplastics – the flip side of the coin
It has been long established that microplastics are harmful to people and animals. According to findings presented by Scientists at ETH Zürich, microplastics can harm the soil and vegetation as well, which spells problems for the mulch film industry.
In their study, the Scientists observed how high concentrations of microplastics in the soil caused it to repel water, thus creating disturbances in how the water flowed through the soil, resulting in areas with high concentrations of microplastics receiving considerably less water.
When using mulch film, high concentrations of microplastics can amass in partial areas, leading to an insufficient water supply to the plants' root systems. In the worst-case scenario, this leads to dry zones where soil cultivation becomes difficult.
Building a solid ground by solving the microplastics issue
Given the enormous implications associated with microplastics for humans, animals, and plants alike, GAIA had already identified this as one of the most urgent issues for several applications, including mulch films, and had this marked down as a top priority.
“Traditionally, compostable biomaterials have included PLA to a larger or smaller extent," explains GAIA BioMaterials’ R&D Manager Konrad Rosén. “PLA is in many ways a fantastic material, which brings stability and strength to end applications, but it also has its drawbacks: The slow biodegradation rate in low temperatures being among the biggest ones.
Through a focused R&D effort that spans several different applications, utilizing the competencies and experiences of a cross-discipline team, we found a way to omit PLA from our film grades without compromising on the material properties. The result was a material certified for home composting in thicknesses previously unimaginable.”
It also proved to be a breakthrough when it came to solving the problems with microplastics: A study conducted by Scientists at ETH Zürich had previously concluded that materials with the same material composition as Biodolomer® don’t generate any microplastics when dispersed in soil, but are completely biodegraded.
The future of mulch film
With a growing world population and the demand for increased agricultural returns, the mulch film market is expected to continue to grow, from USD3,5 Bn in 2020 to USD5,1 Bn in 2027. Currently, biodegradable mulch films only constitute a fraction of this, with PLA-free mulch films making up even less.
This, however, is projected to change. Given the disturbing findings concerning the effects of microplastics in the soil, fewer and fewer countries and landowners will be willing to risk their future agricultural returns by continuing to use mulch films that will result in microplastic pollution. To retain their current returns, they will have no other option but to use biodegradable mulch film instead that does not generate microplastics.
“The potential is huge,” says Peter Stenström, CEO of GAIA BioMaterials. “We’re still at the early stages of development, but given that we have the most important feature of not creating microplastics in place from the get-go, we are confident that we will succeed.”
For those interested in learning more, please refer to the following articles:
Soil Science of America: A LASTING IMPACT: MICROPLASTICS SETTLING INTO SOIL
Vadose Zone Journal: Microplastic induces soil water repellency and limits capillary flow
If you are interested in cooperating with GAIA BioMaterials concerning mulch film, please contact Peter Stenström.
Gaia BioMaterials is a Swedish company that develops and produces biodegradable biomaterials. With our patented material, Biodolomer®, we are revolutionizing the plastics industry and contributing to a cleaner and healthier planet. Biodolomer® is inspired by a half-a-billion-year-old packaging design from Mother Earth – the egg. Read more.
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