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20. March 2024

Development of a Voluntary Code of Conduct for Sustainable Use of Plastics in Agriculture

The use of plastics in the agricultural sector has seen a significant increase, with approximately 12.5 million tonnes of plastic products being used annually in crop and livestock production. In this context, it is crucial for organizations to actively advocate for the environmentally sound removal and recycling of these agricultural plastics. A prime example of this is the recently renewed voluntary commitment of the initiative ERDE.

Another organization supporting this goal is the  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They are working on developing a "Voluntary Code of Conduct" (VCoC) for the sustainable use of plastics in agriculture.

The benefits of plastics in food production are well-known, as they contribute to higher crop yields and more efficient water usage.

However, inadequate management and lack of access to suitable disposal and recycling infrastructure often causes a problem, resulting in agricultural plastic products frequently ending up in the environment and posing potential risks to human health and the environment.

A comprehensive assessment by the FAO in 2021 highlighted the advantages and challenges of using plastics in agriculture. The study emphasized the need to strike a balance between benefits and compromises and urgently promote global actions, improved governance, and cross-sectoral collaboration to address issues related to plastics in agricultural and food systems.

The VCoC aims to provide a policy framework for the sustainable use of plastics in agriculture. It is intended to assist policymakers in developing and strengthening policies and strategies and provide recommendations and best practices to other stakeholders along the agricultural and food value chain. Global and regional multi-stakeholder consultations on the major elements of the VCoC took place from May to December 2023, and further consultations between FAO Members have been ongoing since January 2024. Further information will be released soon, and if you have any inquiries about the process, please reach out to Agri-Plastics.

RIGK GmbH is also actively involved in this issue and advocates for it through its systems in the agricultural sector, such as the IK-Initiative ERDE. The recovery and recycling system for crop plastics in Germany renewed its voluntary commitment for the collection of agricultural plastics this year and set ambitious goals to advance the collection and recycling of crop plastics: by 2026, over 60% of German asparagus films and by 2027, over 75% of silo and stretch films are to be recycled. Concrete collection targets have also been set for other agricultural plastics. Pilot projects are testing the integration of additional fractions such as drip tubes and greenhouse films. In 2022, these efforts resulted in the collection of a total of 38,476 tonnes of agricultural plastics, equivalent to a CO2 savings of 42,748 tonnes.

Supporting initiatives like the VCoC through consultations and providing best practices and learning experiences are crucial for promoting sustainability and circular economy in agriculture. RIGK thus welcomes the efforts of the FAO to promote sustainable management of plastics in agriculture to contribute jointly to food security, food safety, human health, and environmental protection.

Further information:

Mirco Gattinger
Marketing & Social Media Manager
+49 611 308600-39