Mulch films represent the second largest share of plastic films used in crop production in Europe. However, retrieval, recycling, and reuse of conventional plastics pose serious problems. Films made from soil-biodegradable plastics are specifically designed to biodegrade effectively in situ and can therefore be incorporated into the soil post-harvest. At the same time, they are proven to have a similar agronomical efficiency compared to conventional, non-biodegradable plastics, specifically in terms of increase of yield and quality of crops, control of weeds, and increase of soil temperature and moisture. Certified soil-biodegradable mulch films have been in use commercially since over 20 years, mainly for the cultivation of vegetable crops, and their agronomical behaviour and end-of-life have been extensively assessed.
The EU Fertilising Products Regulation (FPR) currently does not cover any plastic mulches. However, the Regulation specifies that by 16 July 2024, the EU Commission should assess the possibility to include soil-biodegradable mulch films under the so-called “component material category” (CMC) 9, which describes polymers other than nutrient polymers.
After a call for tender, EUBP member AIMPLAS has received the contract to make a technical study assessing biodegradability criteria for mulch films in soil and aquatic environments across the European Union. Based on these findings, the EU Commission will assess and – if possible – adopt biodegradability criteria for polymers. Soil-biodegradable mulch films would then only be covered by the FPR, if these criteria are adopted and if the materials do comply.
EUBP is closely following this process as an observer to the EU Commission Expert Group on Fertilising Products and is convinced that the incorporation of certified soil-biodegradable mulch films in the FPR is crucial for enabling a functioning bioeconomy also in the agricultural sector and limiting the amount of microplastics in agricultural soils. For this reason, EUBP has recently published a position paper on why certified soil-biodegradable mulch films belong in the EU Fertilising Product Regulation. This paper is available for download here.