UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A Perspective on Plastics and Microplastics Contamination in Garden Soil in British Columbia, Canada Falconi, Isabela Brandolis Alves; Mackay, Melanie; Zafar, Geety; Holuszko, M. E.


Plastic contamination is commonly reported in urban and rural soils, as well as in fresh and ocean waters. Canada’s government has attempted to limit the contamination of single-use plastic by banning the manufacturing and selling of specific types of plastic. In British Columbia, current regulations governing commercial composting state that when compost has less than 1% of its dry weight representing foreign materials (including plastic), it can be sold and used in soils. However, due to the low density of plastic and its potential to break down into microparticles, this amount may be enough to become toxic when used in agricultural soils. This paper studies contamination of plastic in garden soils and summarizes how this can affect the environment with a preliminary examination of a garden soil sample. The examination showed that the garden soil sample contained mainly low-density polyethylene, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics (identified through ATR-FTIR) in oxidized and unoxidized forms that can come from commercial composting and hypothesizes that this plastic could break down into microplastic particles. In order to limit the amount of plastic contamination in agricultural soils, it is necessary to modify current compost regulations in order to treat plastic differently than other foreign materials (glass, metal, wood).

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