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Organic Farmers Use a LOT of Plastic, and They Can’t Find an Alternative

We already know how much damage our plastic products have inflicted to the environment. It is everywhere - on land, in the air, and even at the bottom of the ocean. We even eat particles of plastic, which is really scary.

Despite knowing all this, organic farmers still rely on plastic. It’s not because they want to. It’s because they have no other choice. So how is plastic related to farming?

Spread over fields with giant rollers and held down with soil, the flat plastic blocks sunlight from hitting the ground and stimulating weed growth. That way, plants like tomatoes, set within a hole punched in the plastic, can grow unimpeded. Although conventional farmers use the material, organic produce farmers rely on it even more since they must avoid chemical weed killers, which are banned in organic farming.
Many organic farmers would love to find an alternative to plastic, but they say there isn't one at the moment. One conceivable solution, biodegradable plastic, isn't allowed under organic rules in its current form, though some think those rules should be changed. Others worry about the long-term effects of biodegradable plastic on soil health and the environment.

(Image Credit: Lisa Elaine Held/ NPR)

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