Plastics in the food chain

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Plastics in the food chain

Postby ccfd9 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 7:42 am

We know that plastic is entering the food chain via the water and thus into any seafood we eat. But is it also entering the food chain via vegetables?
I try and be organic, no pesticides etc. I compost any waste and collect leaves and use both to add to my raised beds each year. I try not to collect plastic with the leaves but when I look closely at my soil I find small pieces of plastic. Some is just small pieces of rubbish that has blown into my compost, some from pieces of plastic from ties or broken bits of plastic pots. These are just the pieces I can see, there must be other microscopic pieces from fibres of clothing. How does this effect the food that I produce and given that I will be eating this food how will it affect me?
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Stephen » Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:09 pm

Two points:-
I don't see how the plastic per se can become part of the plant but chemicals leached out of plastic may well be absorbed.
Secondly, the small bits of plastic are why I despise the word "biodegradable" because it doesn't mean compostable.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Tony Hague » Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:36 pm

Compostable doesn't necessarily mean it will in an ordinary heap, either. Some need specific processes.

I had a pint "glass" which said on the side "I am not a plastic glass; I am 100% compostable". 1 year in a regular compost heap, and it was completely unchanged. Still shiny, printing still clear.

I wonder about auto-feed strimmers spraying microplastics everywhere. Horrible noisy things too.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Monika » Tue Feb 19, 2019 7:17 pm

Yes, Tony, I find that the 'compostable' plastic film covers on magazines do not break down in our domestic compost bins, neither do most tea bags. For the latter (and we do produce about 6 or 8 herbal tea bags a day), I now dry the tea bags on a radiator and then cut them open before decanting the contents onto the compost. Very fiddly but, luckily, time is no problem when you are retired!
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Westi » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:19 pm

Great post ccfd9 & welcome to the forum!

I was tardy in the past about things getting in the compost, not intentionally but they were there, even intact - result there & dog well happy to have her ball back, but not so happy with the shiny film plastic that was over the seed packets I chucked in, not to mention the foil inner which I admit I should have considered. All cool as I sieve the soil but one step too many when time is precious!
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Tony Hague » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:30 pm

How many thousand tea bags have I emptied out since I got married ? I'm a coffee person myself, but DW drinks enough tea for both of us. The bags are plasticised paper, and never completely decompose.

I find myself picking out long ribbons of hot melt glue, all that remains of cardboard boxes that go on.

Quality Street wrappers are good - if you seperate the foil and cellophane, the former can be recycled, and the latter is genuinely compostable.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Primrose » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:09 pm

Well, I was pleased to see that when our National Trust annual handbook arrived recently it came wrapped in some kind of recyclable rice paper packaging. So much better than these awful plastic wrappers in which many magazines arrive, including all the magazine supplements of the Sunday newspapers.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby oldherbaceous » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:21 am

A very warm welcome to the forum and what an interesting topic.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Geoff » Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:29 am

My soil glitters in the right light from all the bits of shredded plastic, mainly from window envelopes that are usually oil based plastic rather than cellophane these days. I shred all the household paper waste which must include other bits beside that from envelopes. I strip cardboard boxes of brown tape then tear them up but still some gets through, I usually fish it out as I fork compost into the barrow then put it in my bonfire bin which can't be environmentally good. That's how it gets to the soil but the question is does it get into the produce? As Stephen says chemicals like plasticisers must leach into the soil but I don't know if they can be absorbed or even if they build up or break down. Perhaps similar things are there anyway, oil after all was once life in some form.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby robo » Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:45 am

What's do you think is the worst the plastic we dump into the seas or DDT we humans are bell bent on destroying our planet ,I fished the Mersey on Saturday after a few years of the river being visually cleaner we are once again hooking discarded wings as we call them( sanitary wear) even though the authorities seem to ignore sewage dumping
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Colin2016 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:57 am

Wow how rubbish has change since taking up gardening.

5 years ago my green bin (recyclable) was always full up ready for collection every fortnight…Not been put out for last 2 collects and is only half full now mainly with tins.

Paper is shredded with window from envelope removed, cardboard is stripped of all sticky tape and uncooked vegetable scrapes are saved.

When I shop at farm shop there is choice of paper or plastic bags, always paper for me. Why cant supermarkets give me the choice as well.

I am seriously looking at whether I should support magazines that still use plastic sleeves.

Had some seeds from the real seed company and commented on use of paper/cardboard this is their reply
“We are moving over entirely towards paper, but we need to have specific sized envelopes made up to fit our ‘new’ (1870s!) packing machine. We could import them from the States, but we’re trying to get them made up in Wales to avoid the transport - but it’s a bit of a slow process working with the manufacturers.”

Also see Amazon is making packaging in recyclable plastic.

I think where you live has big impact, in big city areas you will see lots of discarded plastic/rubbish, in small urban areas very little (until the city visitors arrive).
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby ccfd9 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:11 pm

Thank you for the responses. As you can tell I’m concerned about the chemicals in our food and what that is doing to our health. Yes it is the chemicals that the plants get from the plastic in the soil, phthalates, bisphenol A and others that I believe we should worry about.
I know that phthalates and bisphenol A act as xenooestrogens in the body and can disrupt fertility.
Trying to stay organic I am very worried about the use of paper in the compost. Not just the chemicals used in the paper production but also the chemicals used in the inks. Probably fine for the flower bed but into the food chain!
The problem with these chemicals is the the body is very good at adapting for a long period of time. But what happens to the children brought up on these foods when they get to 50?
We produce things thinking they are safe but it often takes years to discover the harm. Just take asbestos as an example. We are producing 350 million tons of plastic each year, we wear it, food comes wrapped in it, we cook our food in it, it is in the food chain, the fish we eat. Yet we do not know what long term damage it is doing to our health and the health of the planet.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Tony Hague » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:39 pm

I've read a few times that the inks are not so bad as they once were, and are mostly of vegetable origin. Whether to believe it, I don't know. On the other hand I've read thermal printer rolls are not so good, containing BPA or BPS. Those go through the stove, I presume burning will destroy them well enough that the ash iscsafe for garden use. I tend to mostly compost corrugated cardboard, as it breaks down quickly. That's where the ribbons of hot-melt glue come from. I wonder what other adhesives are used to make the cardboard.
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Colin2016 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:17 am

I am at a loss over the chemical’s in food chain concern.

Perhaps we should not be growing in the earth but use hydroponics’ instead?

But then what about contaminates in the water that we do not know about.

I questioned my self over my use of plastic whilst on the plot yesterday.

I use plastic trays, bubble rap, plastic blades for strimmer, plastic buckets, plastic water butts, plastic sheeting and plastic guttering.

Is the soil being damage from these items coming into contact with the soil I wonder?

As for burning suspect items in the stove don’t let the London mayor know. lol
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Re: Plastics in the food chain

Postby Westi » Thu Feb 21, 2019 6:52 pm

This is very interesting ccfd9. I hope KG admin are seeing this, would be good to get it out to the magazine readers for their input and/or even a full article from scientific experts maybe differing opinions even to allow for personal choice? My biggest shock was finding that most pots aren't recyclable, OK we re-use but that is not the full journey of re-cycling & doesn't even address leeching.
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