Inorganic Waste Management in Greenhouse Agriculture in Almeria (SE Spain): Towards a Circular System in Intensive Horticultural Production
1.1. The Concept of Circular Economy in a Global Context
1.2. The Horticultural System in Almeria. The Problem of Inorganic Waste
2. Materials and Methods
- Technological centers devoted to plastics, innovation, and technology, the horticultural auxiliary and post-harvesting industry as well as horticultural greenhouse production technologies.
- Waste management organizations (plastics recycling and plant protection drums).
- Companies involved in the transformation of plastic materials (agricultural films) as well as suppliers of greenhouse structures and equipment or irrigation systems for intensive horticulture.
- Companies related to biological solutions for plant protection.
- Associations for plastic materials.
- Companies for materials recovery and fuels manufacturing.
- Horticultural producers’ associations and agricultural consultants.
- Identifying and quantifying the main inorganic waste sources in horticultural greenhouse production.
- Supporting the identification of the best available technologies, alternatives and solutions to reduce inorganic waste along the horticultural production process.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Legal Framework for Circular Economy and Inorganic Residues Management
- Waste law context: the directive 2018/851 of the European Parliament on waste, which is currently under transposition. The Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament on waste was transposed to the Spanish legal system by means of the Spanish Law 22/2011 on waste and contaminated soils, resulting in the National Framework Scheme for waste management (Spanish acronym PEMAR) 2016-2022) and posterior transposed to the regional Andalusian law system by the Order December 30, 2016 and other (see Figure 2).
- Land filling: in many areas where recycling or incineration is not readily available, growers are faced with hauling the plastic to a landfill. The general European law frame is the Directive 2018/850 on the landfill of waste which was transposed to the Spanish systems through the Spanish Royal Decree 1481/2001 which regulates waste disposal through land filling and the Spanish Royal Decree 1304/2009.
- Packaging: in the European context, the current law of application is the Directive EU 2018/852 on packaging and packaging waste, which is under transposition. In Spain the legal frame is basically the Spanish Royal Decree 252/2006 (which reviews the recycling and recovery objectives established in Spanish Law 11/1997).
- Agriculture: The Council Directive 91/414/EEC established the placing of plant protection products on the market. This law frame was developed by the Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament. The Spanish legal system assimilated these regulations by the Spanish Royal Decree 1311/2012.
3.2. Analysis of the Different Processing Steps, Including Products and Main Activities in Intensive Greenhouse Horticulture
- Maintenance or renovation of agricultural infrastructures, including the following aspects:
- Structure of greenhouses: wires, metallic tubes, plastics, and meshes used to avoid insects.
- Irrigation systems: they can eventually be deteriorated due to chemical and/or biological blockage, as well as due to climate exposition (filtering equipment, valves, and irrigation emitters).
- Replacement of covers: ageing due to exposure to solar radiation, chlorine, or sulphur.
- Maintenance of ventilation systems: wires, metallic tubes, plastics, and meshes used to avoid insects.
- Preventive plant health measures: establishment of physical barriers in the soil (made up of plastic or agricultural fabrics), chromotropic plates, or pheromones. They are obtained in supplying stores. The plastic ones contain sand and remains of organic matter which both make the recycling difficult.
- Sowing or transplanting: plants are directly sowed in the soil or in specialised nurseries and then taken to farms between 10 and 70 days after the sowing. Seedlings are transported in trays of seedbeds with plastic cases in cars (occasionally protected with a plastic film) when seedlings are transported by the nursery. This task is occasionally carried out by producers and broken trays are left in farms.
- Biological control: auxiliary insects are transported to input warehouses or farms in plastic packaging kept inside refrigerated porexpan boxes.
- Plant health treatments and fertilization: inputs are bought by suppliers and then stocked according to the current legislation to manage them compliant to the SIGFITO indications derived from regulations. The name SIGFITO comes from the Spanish name “Sistema de recogida de envases de fertilizantes y fotosanitarios,” and it is a Spanish system used to collect the packaging of plant protection products. Some fertilizer supplying companies may not be included in the SIGFITO management system.
- Pruning and defoliation: pruning and defoliation phases need to take especial prophylactic measures such as the use of gloves and cutting tools. They are obtained in specialized inputs stores.
- Plant training systems: these systems use plastic and metallic by-products, such as raffia (string: supporting materials), clips, staples, hooks, and complex training systems. They are bought in inputs stores and, exceptionally, they are separated when crops are removed.
- Harvesting: this process produces a great flow of plastic and wood material from the horticultural handling center. All the materials are controlled and returnable with the exception of the packing material and the raffia.
- Fruit thinning: the same as for pruning and defoliation, this is, the use of gloves and cutting tools.
- Crop removal: three different types of raffia can be found:
- Biodegradable raffia: It is quite difficult to place them, but this task becomes easier after disposing some. Raffia is managed together with the crop once it has been removed as it is biodegradable.
- Reused plastic raffia: raffia, as well as hooks or plastic rings, can be reused for up to four years. The separation of the plants is carried out when controlling the plant training system and limiting the use of fastening elements .
- Plastic raffia: this raffia goes together with crops to recycling plants. Raffia poses serious problems for composting plants as compost may decrease its qualification due to the presence of plastic materials.
- Soil disinfection: it is necessary to distinguish between physical, chemical, biological, and mixed disinfections. By using biodisinfection, crop debris return to soil without transporting them. The plastics needed for solarization and chemical disinfectants are acquired in input stores. It is difficult to manage plastics as they usually contain dust and sand. Disinfectants packaging are included in the SIGFITO system.
3.3. Data and Statistics on Amount, Volume, and Type of Produced Waste
- Materials used in the construction, maintenance and reform of greenhouses.These materials are mainly concrete and concrete prefabs, wires, plastic elements, agricultural fabrics, and elements of irrigation systems. The materials used in construction are managed by the builder. The replacement of cover and closing elements (plastic, wires, meshes) is carried out by professional staff. Plastic waste is collected separately from wires, cardboard, or mesh which are managed, not without difficulty by producers.
- Materials for physical and chemical protection.Basically, they result from the elements used for the protection of the crop such as pads, tunnels, protections, double ceilings, and double closings together with the plastic used for solarization. This waste is produced when crops are replaced by others, especially in the summer period. Plastics are loaded onto vehicles for their shipment to the nearest management center or gathered in non-productive areas until they are transported to landfills.
- Materials used in crop establishment.In this section transplant materials contained by plants produced in nurseries include:
- Trays, which are usually returnable.
- Covers, being usually disposable.
- Elements used to support plants (raffia, clips, and hooks).
- Packaging containing fertilizers (plastic or raffia sacks, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and packaging that range from 25 gr to 1000 L).
- Plant protection products (paper sacks, plastic bags in cardboard boxes, plastic bottles that range from 0.25 to 25 L) and auxiliary insects (cardboard boxes, cards, biofactory envelopes, cardboard, and plastic packaging that range from 0.25 to 1 L).
- Materials used in harvesting.In this section, packaging of diverse standard sizes, pellet, straps, protection bags, and paper sheets are comprised. Farmers use the material provided by horticultural handling centers, fundamentally field boxes, which are provided under a use-return system.
- Agricultural machinery.After the use of self-working machinery, oils, fats, filters, and batteries are produced when performing maintenance tasks. This waste is managed in the garages where they are repaired. Once their lifespan has finished, this waste is sent to an authorized management center (farmers can benefit from schemes for the renovation of machinery).
3.4. Best Available Techniques (BATs) for the Management of Inorganic Residues of Greenhouses in Almería
- Natural compostable string: this natural and compostable string is developed from recycled cotton yarns in addition to agronutrients. This product is set in the market, and has been tested before with pepper and tomato crops.
- Cellulose-rayon biodegradable string: this biodegradable string allows to carry out a new concept in the treatment of agricultural waste, permitting a cost reduction by not separating the string from the rest of organic elements once the crop has already finalized.
- Innovative reuse techniques for crop-supporting systems: Testing different material biodegradable strings for their reuse in horticultural greenhouse crops.
- Natural compostable chromotropic trap: made from natural fibers, dyes, and adhesives. Among the most important advantages of this product, is the total elimination of the residue of chromotropic traps that currently do not have an environmentally friendly channel for their disposal.
- Use of ultrasound emitter instead of insect sticky traps: employing an ultrasound emitter to avoid pests, replacing chemical plant protection products or insect sticky traps. The pilot tests were proven efficient against white flies, a very harmful pest for tomato, cucumber, or courgette crops.
- Innovation in auxiliary insects packaging used in biological pest control: packaging volume reduction and/or substitution by cardboard of auxiliary insect’s plastic containers.
- Black biodegradable mulching plastic: made of biopolymer based on biodegradable and renewable raw materials and black smoke pigment to achieve an optimum level of opacity for application as agricultural mulch.
- Replacement of mulching plastic cover by straw layer: agricultural practice which consists of mixing soil with sand and cap with a straw mulching layer, avoiding the use of plastic cover.
- Strategic solutions for cleaning methods implementation of solarization and mulching plastics: testing of different washing, spreading, and drying methods for solarization and mulching plastics in greenhouses before their recycling in treatment plants.
- RAFU (Recycling of Used, Agricultural Films) machine: equipment to recover agricultural films with the purpose of recycling. It improves conditions for the collection and recovery of used farm film, significantly reducing the rate of pollution by using cleaning techniques closer to the place of use.
- Manual of best agricultural practices for sanded soil maintenance optimization: testing of best agricultural practices for a better maintenance of sanded soil in horticultural greenhouses.
- White compostable clip: this compostable clip is also suitable for biological crops, combined with biodegradable string, and the cost of waste management can be reduced.
- Cleanable metal plant staking: promoting the use of metal plant staking instead of plastic plant staking, which can be cleaned and reused avoiding plastic waste.
- Inorganic waste management improvement in horticultural greenhouses: the monitoring of these types of waste in the horticultural greenhouses sector could favor the optimization of its sustainable management.
- Biodegradable strings of jute fibres: replacing plastic strings (raffia) used for staking plants with biodegradable strings. Different types of biodegradable strings using several raw materials (recycled cotton yarns and agro-nutrients, jute fiber, and other natural materials, cellulose-rayon) have been identified. These compostable materials allow avoiding separating strings from the rest of organic elements once the crop has been harvested, thereby permitting a cost reduction and the possibility of making compost on farms.
- Biodegradable mulching plastic films: biodegradable mulches provide an alternative to plastic mulch film for weed control, soil temperature moderation, water conservation, and other benefits. It avoids the collection and elimination of mulching at the end of the crop, thus allowing biodegradation and bio-assimilation in the field.
- Biodegradable and compostable clips. these clips are biodegradable and compostable and can be used to support various crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. The clips ensure enough support and a better orientation of the stem, not being necessary to wrap the stem of the plant along the wire, which reduces labor costs. The clips can be eliminated at the end of the crop cycle with the organic waste, not being necessary to separate them. They can be also sent for composting together with the crop, as it is not a contaminating element.
- Long lasting plastic cover. thermal film with EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)/EBA (Ethylene Butyl Acrylate), and metallocene polymers, manufactured in multilayer co-extrusion, in various thicknesses. It has one of the properties most valued by farmers—the impact on the dart (resistance of the sheets to a pressure exerted in a point)—therefore reinforcing a very important point in the covers—the folds. This sheet has been designed for greenhouses covers and crops tunnels, thus providing an excellent resistance to the degradation produced by solar radiation and chemical treatments.
- Second generation synthetic oil obtained from the recovery of a wide variety of waste, mainly plastic. Thus, alternative liquid fuels with commercial value result from pyrolysis, a thermal process where plastics are decomposed and transformed in lack of oxygen. There is already a commercialized product resulting from solid urban waste although the fuels obtained from agriculture plastics are currently in a testing phase. Nonetheless, they have been successfully used for greenhouse heating.
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|HD 1 polyethylene||8669||10||36,599||20|
|LD 2 Polyethylene||34,034||38||55,249||30|
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Sayadi-Gmada, S.; Rodríguez-Pleguezuelo, C.R.; Rojas-Serrano, F.; Parra-López, C.; Parra-Gómez, S.; García-García, M.d.C.; García-Collado, R.; Lorbach-Kelle, M.B.; Manrique-Gordillo, T. Inorganic Waste Management in Greenhouse Agriculture in Almeria (SE Spain): Towards a Circular System in Intensive Horticultural Production. Sustainability 2019, 11, 3782. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143782
Sayadi-Gmada S, Rodríguez-Pleguezuelo CR, Rojas-Serrano F, Parra-López C, Parra-Gómez S, García-García MdC, García-Collado R, Lorbach-Kelle MB, Manrique-Gordillo T. Inorganic Waste Management in Greenhouse Agriculture in Almeria (SE Spain): Towards a Circular System in Intensive Horticultural Production. Sustainability. 2019; 11(14):3782. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143782Chicago/Turabian Style
Sayadi-Gmada, Samir, Carmen Rocío Rodríguez-Pleguezuelo, Fátima Rojas-Serrano, Carlos Parra-López, Salvador Parra-Gómez, Maria del Carmen García-García, Rosana García-Collado, Mariana Beatriz Lorbach-Kelle, and Trinidad Manrique-Gordillo. 2019. "Inorganic Waste Management in Greenhouse Agriculture in Almeria (SE Spain): Towards a Circular System in Intensive Horticultural Production" Sustainability 11, no. 14: 3782. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143782