Agricultural Plastic Pollution in China: Generation of Plastic Debris and Emission of Phthalic Acid Esters From Agricultural Films

Agricultural plastic films have been found to be quite useful, but they also pollute the environment with plastic waste and related toxins. Phthalates (phthalic acid esters, PAEs), an important additive of agricultural films, can potentially be released and contaminate the environment. In this study, agricultural plastic usage in China is being assessed and a method to estimate PAE emissions from agricultural films have been developed. The environmental fate of PAEs were evaluated using a fugacity-based multimedia model. The agricultural plastic film usage in China in 2017 was found to be 2,528,600 tons. During its lifetime, the agricultural film released a total of 91.5 tons of two typical types of PAEs. PAEs from the mulching film would mostly be removed through degradation, while those from the greenhouse film accumulate in vegetables. The findings from this study demonstrated the serious agricultural plastic pollution problem and associated PAE contamination in many regions of China.

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