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New study looks at the role plastic films play in global food production

New study looks at the role plastic films play in global food production thumbnail

In order to feed a global population, which is expected to top nine billion people by 2050, the world must reduce food waste and the distribution of food needs to be improved and food production increased. At the same time, agriculture faces challenges due to changing economic and environmental trends including climate change, biofuel expansion, slowing agricultural yields, rising meat demand and ever increasing calorie intake from a growing global middle class. It is estimated that by 2050, about 70% of the global population will be urban, compared to 50% today.

As a result, AMI Consulting took a closer look at the European agriculture sector in a new market report. The agricultural sector is forced to produce more food of increasing quality on less land within a shorter space of time using less resources, while generating minimum waste. Extending the growing season and increasing yields of land have been and will remain the main drivers for the use of agricultural films. In addition, plastic films protect the crops, which has direct implications on the crop’s quality.

The European market for agricultural film has been experiencing steady growth over the past decade exceeding half a million tons in 2013. Spain and Italy are the largest markets overall, accounting for almost 40% of demand, primarily driven by their intensive horticultural activity where large quantities of greenhouse and mulch films are used. In contrast, Northern Europe with vast areas of grass land is a major producer of animal fodder and has significant consumption of silage films both silage sheet and stretch wrap.

Silage film is forecasted to grow by just over 1% a year over the next five year period is going to be driven primarily by booming biomass production, demand for increasing quality of fodder and reduction of spoilage, increased number of dairy cows, increasing nutritional intake per cow, silage being increasingly fed to horses and haylage being also increasingly baled and wrapped.

Consumption of conventional mulch film in tonnage terms is forecast to decline slightly over the next five years as a result of the relative maturity of the market, shrinking of the area for crop cultivation and the need for the reduction of post-use plastic waste (by downgauging or by using biodegradable films instead).

Market trends for greenhouse film demand are very similar to mulch films as both types of films are increasingly used in combination. The European market is a mature one and with one season films being gradually replaced by films lasting up to 5 years, in tonnage terms the market has seen a decline and the process is expected to continue for the next five years.

The market is increasingly driven by value rather than volume. In order to increase market share in an oversupplied market, film companies will strive to develop innovative customized high performance thinner multilayer films and as well as look at opportunities for further consolidation. Some of the most recent major takeovers include RKW acquiring Hyplast and Biofol Film, ITW Mima’s industrial films business being acquired by the US-based Carlyle Group, Morera & Vallejo acquiring the bankrupt TPM group in Spain and Unterland being acquired by the Britton Group now rebranded as Coveris.

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18 Comments on "New study looks at the role plastic films play in global food production"

  1. nwcruiser on Sat, 26th Jul 2014 6:45 pm 

    We need to decrease the global population

  2. Makati1 on Sat, 26th Jul 2014 8:35 pm 

    More ways to waste what few resources we have left. What happens to those 500,000 tons of plastic every year, after they are used? No mention of the recycle plan, because, there is likely none. Use and bury. That is the usual way the West handles their trash. We need fewer uses for oil, not more.

    Imagine what we could have done with all of the resources we have wasted over the last 70 years. Gone to Mars? Live on the moon? Have zero poverty? Clean air, water and living soil? We traded a better world for an SUV and WalMart.

  3. Davy on Sat, 26th Jul 2014 9:09 pm 

    A lot of plastic is in Manila’s harbor. What ashame!

  4. Kenz300 on Sat, 26th Jul 2014 10:21 pm 

    Quote – “In order to feed a global population, which is expected to top nine billion people by 2050, the world must reduce food waste and the distribution of food needs to be improved and food production increased.”

    OR MAYBE we need to do more to reduce population growth by increasing access to birth control so the world population does not get to nine billion.


    The worlds poorest people are having the most children. They have not figured out the connection between their poverty and family size.


    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

  5. steve on Sat, 26th Jul 2014 11:06 pm 

    I wish China would invade and take over Manila already! We all know it is coming….there is not a person sitting at his or her computer that is not related to some not so distant ancestor who has raped and pillaged or some ancestor who has been victim of the same…but Makati and his small brain condemn all who live in the U.S….All the while sucking at the teat of the great Satan to get his monthly check! What a F-ing hypocrite!! Jevons paradox also works with Power as soon as the U.S exits some other country will fill the void!

  6. Makati1 on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 2:49 am 

    steve, you can just skip any post starting with: Makati1. I see the troubles coming to the US long before they hit here. In fact, they are already there in spades…

    That you cannot see the US trying to start a world war that will turn nuclear is your blind spot, not mine.

    Many more …

  7. Davy on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 6:34 am 

    Thanks Steve for assisting me in exposing Mak, for what he is. He is a true definition of a hypocrite. Then the hypocrite has the audacity to say “skip my postings if you don’t like it”. Well Mak, we are not pussy like you. We don’t lay down like a coward like you would. We stand up to assholes and bullies. We are sick and tired of the steady diet of anti-Americanism that spews from your orifices. If you showed some sophistication of which you have none then this might not be an issue. This site’s mission is discussion of US centric problems along with PO topics. These issues go hand in hand because PO implies decline of the American lifestyle. Yet, it also implies the same for the rest of the world. Many here criticize the US but are not assholes about it. You are scum Mak and I am not the only one sick and tired of your abuse. This is not a board for the spreading of anti-American propaganda.

  8. ghung on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 9:38 am 

    Someone gave me a role of “biodegradable” plastic mulch a few years ago so I experimented with it for a couple of years. I can see why plastic mulch is so popular. For many row crops, it virtually eliminates weeding or the need for herbicides, extends the growing season by allowing the soil beneath to warm earlier, and, using drip irrigation while reducing evaporation, saves a lot of water. Fertilizer can be applied directly to the plant roots via the drip system, greatly reducing waste and runoff into the watershed. Plastic mulches also reduce wind/water erosion of topsoil.

    After removal, the soil beneath was in great shape, full of worms and other organisms.

    This testimony shouldn’t be misconstrued as an endorsement. I just want to point out that the benefits may well outweigh the liabilities when all of the math is done, especially in a world where feeding billions requires industrial agriculture. My worldview tells me that these things are ultimately unsustainable, but I can think of many more horrible demons we need to slay on the way down. Proper disposal or recycling of these materials would be a fairly simple process if implemented at scale.

    A roll of plastic mulch, 4400 feet by 4 feet, would last me over ten years in our garden, and cost $70 – $80. I keep a roll in storage for drought years, or for when the big one comes and local food production becomes more critical. Seems like a pretty good addition to one’s prepper toolkit, especially in an age of superweeds and variable weather and climate. Drip irrigation systems are inexpensive, easy to construct, and last a long time.

    The best onions I’ve ever grown were under plastic in a severe drought year. At the end of the season I incorporated all of the plant materials into the mounds and overplanted with rye, and the next year was even better, using virtually no fertilizer.

  9. kervennic on Sun, 27th Jul 2014 8:48 pm 

    There is no doubt plastic makes things easier for large farms.
    But one can work without plastic. At least that works for me.

    My concern is that the overall sum is negative in term of globalfood production.

    1) It favours concentrated production center and has killed all subistence production that has never been counted in global production (all those old fruit trees you see in the country side if you look wel, that were once feeding people in small farms and are now ageing and overtaken by wild trees).
    Globaly nobody knows if food production is increasing because all home producrion, which is stil centralin half of the world is omitted (for instance mine).

    2) Those plastic degrade (most faster than 5 years). If they degrade, they loose some matter in the soil, a matter that is surely toxic given the large spectrum of components.
    It is impossible to know what causes exactly the eplosion of certain pest in modern times,such as the spanisjh slug and the demise of amphibian and fishes.
    But platic is one of the main culprit of the global imbalance because it triggers fertility issues.
    So we get more pests globally by trying to stop them punctually on a large scale and the yied increase are slowing as the article mention.

    We can live without plastic.
    For instance linseed oi can be used to plastify tissue, protect wood and metal and transform organic fibre nets into durable items.
    Many othe organic material, plants and other tricks can be used.

    But if you want to make monet without using your brain, an you do not care about your fertility and other health issue, go plastic !

  10. Makati1 on Mon, 28th Jul 2014 4:16 am 

    And, Davy, that stuff floating in the harbor is common all over the world. Not much, if any, comes from the people living there. A lot of it is from the ships and liners that sail the oceans where the passengers throw stuff over board because they are too lazy to take it to the trashcan.

    Go to any beach in the Us before the machines clean them. Or the wild areas and you can pick up a ton of trash easily. Nothing like a hurricane or a typhoon to put a million tons of trash into the oceans. That the Ps doesn’t waste money keeping their 7,000+ island’s worth of beaches spotless is not indicative of the people.

  11. Kenz300 on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 10:49 am 

    All plastic should be recycled…………….

    The plastic waste polluting the oceans is a disgrace.

  12. JuanP on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 11:39 am 

    Mak. Ignoring the fact you and Dave keep at it, and I won’t get into that; you two figure it out. No explanations needed from either of you about it. I wish your last post didn’t ring so close to the truth of my life here in Miami Beach for so many reasons.
    First, I live in an oceanfront condo and have a direct ocean view with direct access to the beach. Every morning of the year, except official holidays, there is a veritable army of heavy machinery working from 6 to 9, bulldozers, heavy trucks, rakes, levelling ones, ones that filter the sand, and others designed to move the sand to fight erosion. You have to see it to believe, and being down there in the sun with all those machines around is scary, I am lucky to have a pool deck.
    Second, I have been boating, sailing, kayaking, rafting, swimming, and surfing in South Florida for 25 years and every island down here that is not cleaned regularly by someone paid to do it is unbelievably dirty. My wife and I always carry 30 gallon trash bags and bring them back full of trash we pick up on the islands. We select the most dangerous and toxic stuff from the tons available to choose from on even the smallest islands.
    Third, your comment regarding hurricanes. My wife and I were just talking last week about how a hurricane could prompt us to live Miami by flooding Biscayne Bay with trash from the cities around it, making it impossible to use it like we do today. The islands we go to on our trips would also be completely destroyed, as would much of the city, if a big one hit us.

  13. JuanP on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 11:44 am 

    I meant to say leave Miami, not live 😉

  14. Northwest Resident on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 12:00 pm 

    JuanP — The portrait you paint of Miami is directly at odds with the image we are constantly bombarded with by media and entertainment channels. It seems to me that Miami is a microcosm of the modern world, symbolic of the problems that all humanity face today. That is, to put it bluntly, we are awash in our own trash and waste, so much so that without diligent effort to sweep it under the rug, the majority of the world population will be living in their own garbage. How sad is that? No more sad than it is brutally true.

  15. JuanP on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 12:22 pm 

    NWR, I don’t think you would like Miami at all based on what little I know about you so far. You’d have a better time at The Bahamas, if you want some nature along with your beach and fun.

  16. JuanP on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 12:33 pm 

    NWR, I forgot! Yes, Miami represents many of this world’s incongruences, dilemmas, problems, and predicaments. It represents everything that has gone wrong in the world in a way few other places do. It’s a crazy place to live in. What with the SoBe crowd and all the construction and speculation on what is mostly a former mangrove swamp on a sand dune on top of an ancient coral reef, that used to be the bottom of the ocean, a couple of feet above sea level with streets flooding in high tides and the sea level rising. Depending for our survival on nuclear reactors and desalinators? There are few large megalopolises in the USA or the world that are less sustainable than Miami.

  17. Northwest Resident on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 12:35 pm 

    JuanP — You are correct. When given a choice between partying at the beach or heading to the mountains for some communion with nature, I always go the mountain route. Three years ago my x-wife tried to move to Miami with my son because she got accepted by an advanced nursing school in Miami. I mounted a major legal battle and won. But, had I lost, I would now be living in Miami because I am not going to leave my son’s side. What a huge difference winning that legal battle made. Chalk one up for the home team.

  18. JuanP on Tue, 29th Jul 2014 12:46 pm 

    NWR, Sad story. IMO, you are all better off wherever you are, including your son. I tremble at the idea of raising a son in Miami today. Sorry for your wife’s loss of opportunity, though, I hope she made up for it. Having kids makes hard choices unavoidable sometimes, getting married, too.

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