The UN environment agency has warned that plastics are piling up in soil across the world.
According to a new report by the UN environment programme, plastics used in farming activities are accumulating in agricultural soil worldwide at an alarming rate.
UNEP experts explain that plastics are used extensively in agriculture, from plastic-coated seeds to protective wraps used to modify soil temperature and prevent weed growth over crops.
Professor Elaine Baker from the University of Sydney, a co-author of the report says they are concerned that while all these products have helped increase crop yields, there is growing evidence that degraded plastics are contaminating the soil and impacting biodiversity and soil health.
Ms. Baker explains that over time, big pieces of plastic can break into shards less than 5 mm long and seep into the soil.
“We are starting to understand that the build-up of plastic can have wide-ranging impacts on soil health, biodiversity and productivity, all of which are vital for food security,” Baker said.
UNEP experts further explain that these microplastics can change the physical structure of the earth underfoot and limit its capacity to hold water. They also can affect plants by reducing root growth and nutrient uptake.
Currently, the single-biggest source of microplastic pollution in soil is fertilizers produced from organic matter such as manure.