China will tighten laws on using plastic film by farmers to boost crop yields, which has become a vital source of soil contamination throughout northern and western areas, according to a draft policy document printed Friday.
The new guidelines, which have been opened to the public for consultation, will contain the establishment of a comprehensive “administration system” covering the production, sale, utilization, and recycling of thin plastic film in the countryside.
Chinese farmers, mainly in the arid north and west, cover fields with vast amounts of “plastic mulch” to assist in maintaining soil moisture and shield against pests. The technique has played a vital role in boosting results and raising the standard of crops, the agriculture ministry stated in a notice.
In the northwest China that made use of plastic mulch, contamination rates stood at an average of 36 kilograms each hectare, with the figure as high as 138 kilograms in some areas, it stated.
The new guidelines would force farmers to make use of film that meets quality requirements, and they must collect the plastic waste from fields before its expiry date and deliver to approved recycling outlets. They will be encouraged to reuse old films.
China is said to make use of nearly 2 million tonnes of plastic film yearly to cover around 200,000 sq. km. of farmland, an area the dimension of Belarus. However, government researchers say the recycling rate stands at 180,000 tonnes.
Beijing intends to make around 90% of its total farmland aside for agriculture by the end of next year, a part of its efforts to ensure food safety.