Drip Irrigation’s Compostable Plastic Pipes for Sustainable Agriculture

green plastic shenkar israel irrigationResearchers in Israel have developed a new green plastic for irrigation pipes

Drip irrigation is currently  one of the most effective ways for farmers and gardeners to save water. But the method relies on plastic pipes and routinely creates non-recyclable  waste. Recently Israeli scientists and professors from the Plastics Engineering department of Shenkar Art School in Tel Aviv collaborated with drip irrigation company Netafim to invent a new biodegradable plastic. This plastic, made from substances such as sugar, corn or lactic acid, is durable enough to make pipes for drip irrigation and yet is still completely compostable.

“When they are put in the ground bio-organisms in the ground begin to dismantle them and thus closes the circle of nature. The goal is to avoid polymers produced by fossil carbon,” said Prof. Shmuel Kenig, dean of Shenkar College of Engineering.

Video on green plastic (in Hebrew)

Creating this plastic substance has taken nearly a decade. Developers expect it will take several years until their product can be mass-produced. But when it does hit the market it has the potential to revolutionize sustainable agriculture.

Today, about 40 percent of water used in agricultural irrigation is wasted because of unsustainable practices. Drip irrigation has proven to be among the most feasible, water conserving methods for commercial agriculture. But the byproduct of used, plastic piping that cannot be recycled and needs to be ripped out of the ground each season, is currently one of the method’s greatest downfalls.

According to Avi Schweitzer, VP of Development at Netafim: “The patent application is still far away…It will take a few years before we reach commercial distribution.”

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