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iMulch – An investigation of the influence of polymers on a terrestrial ecosystem using the example of mulch films used in agriculture

As plastics production continues to increase globally, topics such as “microplastics” and “plastics in the environment” are the focus of discussions and are becoming more relevant.
While the occurrence, distribution and effects of plastics in limnic and marine waters have already been investigated, the data situation regarding plastic emissions in soils is still relatively limited. Up to now, neither the exact routes, quantities and concentrations of polymers in soils nor the effects of plastics on organisms and the soil ecosystem are known.

In the iMulch project, methods are being developed and validated that enable the detection of plastics (micro- and macroplastics) in soils and drainage waters. The analysis primarily focuses on the effect of drainage water on municipal wastewater treatment processes. As an example, plastic emissions from so-called mulch films from agriculture will be analysed. That way, the iMulch project contributes to the assessment of the consequences of plastic inputs not only in water but also for the soil ecosystem. The investigation of terrestrial systems supplements the research on aquatic systems and thus provides the possibility of a holistic view on plastic emissions.

At the Institute of Applied Microbiology (iAMB), the biodegradability of mulch film monomers and potential upcycling strategies are subject of research within the iMulch project. One focus lies on polymer recycling, where plastic side streams are used as carbon source of microbes that produce bioplastic and other molecules of value.

For further information:

Staff: Kristina Bitter

  iMulch Funding