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Extramural Research

Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Developing Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic Mulch

EPA Grant Number: SU836026
Title: Developing Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic Mulch
Investigators: Santelmann, Mary , Li, Kaichang
Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011)
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Water


We propose a project to raise awareness of pollution associated with the production, use and disposal of plastic films/ sheeting used as mulch, and to work with farmers and industry partners to develop a biodegradable, sustainable alternative to plastic mulch.


In Phase I, project objectives are to raise awareness of this problem, to test promising alternative materials, and to help design a sustainable alternative to plastic mulch.


To achieve our first goal, we will produce a documentary video on the problems associated with use of plastic in agriculture and hold a workshop on Developing Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic Mulch that includes as participants scientists, farmers and potential product developers. To achieve our second and third goals, graduate student team members will interview farmers in two case study regions to identify user needs, while undergraduate team members test promising alternative materials such as cellulose acetate and polylactic acid for attributes required in mulch films.

Expected Results:

Anticipated project outcomes will be increased awareness of pollution problems associated with the use of plastic mulch in agriculture and improved capacity for development of a sustainable, biodegradable alternative to plastic mulch, based on pilot assessment of alternative materials and their ability to meet user-defined specifications for the product needed by farmers. The project will also help develop a new team of undergraduate students interested in continuing the research on development of sustainable alternatives to plastic mulch used to conserve water and enhance plant growth in agriculture.

Supplemental Keywords:

plasticulture, waste reduction, soil enhancement, water use efficiency,

Relevant Websites:

Developing Alternatives to Plastic Mulch Phase II

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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