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Beating Plastic Pollution in Agriculture: Towards Innovative Recycling by Jhannel Tomlinson

Beating Plastic Pollution in Agriculture: Towards Innovative Recycling by Jhannel Tomlinson

Agriculture represents a critical share of the economies of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), specifically island nations like Jamaica where the sector contributes 7.9 per cent of national GDP (World Bank, 2018). With most agricultural chemicals and inputs sold in plastic containers, their use has become a major topic of discussion as greater awareness of the environmental impact of plastics takes hold.

In Jamaica, farmers purchase pesticides, fertilisers and farm inputs in plastic packaging which are often reused to mix and store other chemicals. These containers serve as storage for seedlings as well as containers for drip irrigation. Though this is one effective method to reduce plastic pollution, the practice is not mainstream across the country. Ironically, many farmers pollute the environment by simply disposing off these plastics. This contributes to an increasing problem of pollution. In other areas of the world, Texas (United States) for example, the disposal of plastic agricultural items such as drip irrigation tubing is an environmental problem identified even among growers (GreenSource DFW, 2018).

Historically, discarded agricultural waste was taken to landfills or burned/buried. This often occurred on the farm property. However, recently, with governments’ efforts to enforce SDG 13 on climate action and the aim to reduce the contribution of greenhouses gases, more attention is being paid towards plastic burning. This and other associated efforts have spurred interest in farmers to explore other climate smart options.

Additionally, an increasing number of SIDS countries have started to implement methods to convert used agricultural plastic into recyclable products such as garbage bags, sidewalk pavers and plastic lumber. In a bid to encourage environmental-friendly and cost-effective practices, manufacturers have adopted a similar approach to environment protection. With only about 10 per cent of farm plastics currently recycled worldwide, it is important to continue to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics to combat climate change and improve our environment.


Jhannel Tomlinson is a member of CYEN Jamaica, the country representative for YPARD Jamaica and a Thought for Food 2018 Ambassador. Jhannel is interested in different themes crosscutting food security, youth engagement and climate action. In addition to volunteering, she is also a PhD candidate and aims to write her dissertation on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change in rural Jamaica.