Update: Webinar on Mapping Knowledge Gaps on Environmental Safety and Sustainability on Agriplastics


Expert presentations and moderation by (starting from the top-left corner): Vincent Ojijo, Richard H. Thompson, Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, Antonio Bliska, Girija Bharat and Blessing Mhlanga.

The webinar: Mapping Knowledge Gaps on Environmental Safety and Sustainability of Agriplastics, focusing on the regions Africa and Latin America, held on December 11, 2023, was an engaging and insightful session on the sustainable management of agricultural plastics. It included expert presentations on agricultural plastic use in Latin America, small scale farming and nature-based mulching solutions in Southern Africa, end-of-life management of agricultural plastics, and microplastics in terrestrial environments. A panel discussion delved into critical data gaps and research needs in sustainable management and plasticulture. There was high engagement and interaction throughout the session and the participation of 100 attendees across Asia (40%), Africa (21%), South America (14%), Europe (21%) and North America (3%).

The webinar was hosted by IKHAPP and powered by NIVA, Mu Gamma Consultants and GRID Arendal and it was interpreted live and the recordings are available in English and Spanish on IKHAPP’s YouTube Channel here.

The speaker presentations are available here.


There is a wide range of applications for plastic in agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries: It is used in a variety of protected-crop production systems, irrigation, packaging, microencapsulation of seed, crops, and agrochemicals, among others. The use of plastic also enhances the cost-effectiveness of fisheries and aquaculture¹. Plastics are also used to boost crop yields and extend the shelf life of seeds, feeds, and harvests, while positively addressing a number of environmental issues such as water scarcity, reduced use of fertilizers and herbicides, expansion of farmers’ access to market, and adaptation to climate change¹. Agriculture is an important economic sector in African and Latin American economies.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, agriculture plays an important role in the provision of food and ecosystem services not only within the region but also throughout the planet. Approximately 152,000 tons of plastics were consumed by the agricultural sector in South Africa in 2019, representing ten percent of the total plastics consumption in the country. A total of 52 percent of plastic products in agriculture are made from polyethylene (PE), followed by 34 percent from polypropylene (PP). The agricultural sector uses 11 percent of all plastic recyclate – primarily high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – for irrigation equipment and fencing poles. In Latin America, agriculture uses 240,000 tons of plastic film each year, the majority of which is used for mulching or tunneling, covering almost 200,000 hectares, with Brazil having the largest quota. The bulk of the remaining film is silage film, which amounts to 60,000 tonnes¹. Commodities and production systems that enhance harvest reliability and yield are increasingly important for food safety in relation to increasing population size and in the context of climate change. Production systems that heavily rely on plastics to control crop growth conditions are termed plasticulture. Examples include protected cultivation systems using plastic films as mulching, greenhouses or tunnels, plastic irrigation systems, etc. The global demand for greenhouse, mulching and silage films is projected to have a 50 percent increase by 2030, plasticulture is gaining importance, even in developing countries³. This projected increase may result in a new and burgeoning conundrum in the struggle to curb plastic pollution. Inadequate use and waste management of agricultural plastics cause environmental pollution. Managing agricultural plastic waste is particularly challenging compared to urban or industrial settings. Agricultural plastic waste generation occurs in fact over broader landscapes, requiring costly transportation and widely distributed infrastructures for collection and processing. These facilities are typically lacking in both developed and developing countries¹.

The accumulation of plastic debris in agricultural soils (e.g., in the form of litter or micro and nanoplastic) including those generated from the degradation of agricultural plastics, has only recently been addressed by scientific research². Preliminary evidence shows that excess microplastic in soils can affect soil properties and fertility. Safeguarding healthy and productive soils requires convincing pollution prevention policies and measures.

The objectives of the event

  • To identify and aggregate relevant knowledge holders from different geographic and socioeconomic contexts, keen to share information and experiences related to agricultural plastics.
  • To establish an international expert group working on agricultural, socio-economic and environmental sustainability in the context of plastic management and agricultural plastics, participated by scientists and independent experts from both the Global South and the Global North.
  • To set the basis for elaborating a map of knowledge gaps on aspects concerned with the environmental, agricultural and socioeconomic sustainability of plasticulture and agricultural plastics in general.
  • To gather and disseminate the latest updates from research activities on the use, diffusion, management and ecological impacts of agricultural plastics towards national and international governance and, further, towards farmers and plastic industry representatives.


The webinar and panel discussion was moderated by Richard H. Thompson, author of the FAO report: “Assessment of agricultural plastics and their sustainability: A call for action”, Chemicals and Waste Consultant, with experience in sustainable management of Persistent Organic Pollutants and agricultural plastics within the UN.


Antonio Bliska, Professor at University of Campinas (Br).,Vice-President of the Brazilian Committee for the Development and Application of Plastics in Agriculture and President of the Editorial Committee of Revista Plasticultura.

Vincent Ojijo, Senior Researcher at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Expert on polymer nanocomposite material and process development with application in the agrifoodplast sector, South Africa.

Blessing Mhlanga, Cropping Systems Agronomist and Researcher at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Zimbabwe office, a member of CGIAR.

Esperanza Huerta Lwanga, Soil Ecology Researcher and Microplastics Specialist in terrestrial environments, Wageningen University, Netherlands and ECOSUR in Mexico.



(1) FAO. Assessment of Agricultural Plastics and Their Sustainability: A Call for Action; FAO, 2021.


(2) Hurley, R. R.; Nizzetto, L. Fate and Occurrence of Micro (Nano)Plastics in Soils: Knowledge Gaps and Possible Risks. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sci. Health 2018, 1, 6–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coesh.2017.10.006

(3) FAO , Breaking the plastic cycle in agriculture .https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1640871/