Source: Beef Farmers of Ontario
Ontario farms produce 6,912 tonnes/year of plastic waste. LDPE plastic waste accounts for 3,510 tonnes/year, 80% of which derives from used bale and silage wrap. Our research will use zein (a corn by-product) to produce natural and yet performing wraps. Our natural wraps can substitute LDPE wraps, reducing plastic waste.
The objective of our project is aligned with the environmental sustainability objective embraced by BFO, as outlined in the research priorities document. The natural wraps will be first produced in the lab, where they will be tested for their mechanical strength and their durability when exposed to moisture, temperature fluctuations, and microorganisms naturally present in the soil. Natural additives will be used to enhance the strength of the wrap and to delay their biodegradation, to prevent loss of performance before the end of the agricultural season. For instance, chitin found in the fertilizer insect frass will be incorporated in the bale wrap because of its natural bactericide properties. Non-toxic salts added to zein will also slow biodegradation. Two types of wraps will be produced: prefabricated films and spray-on wrap.
Preliminary experiments have shown that zein is a promising material for both products.
Fields tests will be conducted in the farms. There, we will verify that our wraps do not break or degrade prematurely. Bales and silage piles will be wrapped or covered manually with prefabricated zein films or coated with spray-on skins. Field testing will inform any improvements required to obtain sustainable wrap material useful to the farmers.