As a community-based business with over a 100 years of farming heritage, we are committed to growing in harmony with the environment and communities we depend on. This commitment challenges us to assess our enterprise’s dependency and impact on local resources, including our independent grower networks’ use and disposal of agricultural field plastics. The use of plastic in berry production is diverse and contributes to our overall plastic footprint which is why we launched our sustainable field plastics work back in 2019.
Agricultural field plastics are used to improve yields, reduce food loss, improve food safety of berries, reduce weed pressures, and reduce water use, among other benefits. We believe we can and should do more to balance the functional aspects of field plastics in berry production with our responsibility to protect the environment, minimize our impact on local community resources, and support grower profitability.
Driscoll’s is working in collaboration with the broader berry industry, thought leaders, and as a company to drive scalable and economically viable solutions to increase the recyclability of field plastics and reduce plastics to landfill. We have concentrated our efforts to three major focus areas:
- Reduce and Reuse: Extend the life of field plastics by encouraging reuse whenever possible. Half of our field plastic is reused for 3-7 years.
- Recover and Recycle: Achieve 100% recycling of field plastics with a viable recycling market in all major producing regions by 2021. This goal covers roughly 70% of total field plastic. Our ultimate goal is for zero plastics going to landfill in priority grower regions by 2025.
- Pilot alternative materials: Continue research and development efforts with though leaders to assess alternative materials to plastic that do not compromise product quality or safety.
Driscoll’s prohibits the burning of plastics in all production regions.
- University of California, Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science
- Driscoll’s collaborated with Dr Roland Geyer and a group of master’s students to identify and evaluate different end-of-life solutions for agricultural plastic waste. This included a life cycle assessment (LCA) of mechanical recycling, pyrolysis (plastic > fuel) and energy capture (incineration) to help inform our sustainable agriculture plastic strategy.
- Florida Agricultural Plastics Recycling Cooperative
- Driscoll’s is an active member of the Florida Ag Plastics Recycling Cooperative to identify long-term solutions to agricultural plastic in Florida. This has included supporting legislation to address these issues, collaborating on grants to conduct additional research as well as sharing best practices across agricultural entities in the state.
- Think Beyond Plastic
- Driscoll’s has partnered with Think Beyond Plastic to launch a 2021 Innovation Challenge to redefine the future of agricultural field plastics waste streams. The Challenge is specifically interested in uncovering innovations that reduce plastic waste through the use of new materials, design, or recycling. Learn more about Agricultural Plastics Innovation Challenge.
- Washington State University
- Driscoll’s has been collaborating with a consortium of universities led by Washington State University to understand the benefits and drawbacks of biodegradable mulch film. Biodegradable plastic alternatives provide an opportunity to transition away from plastics, but raise a number of questions about the long-term impacts on soil health, contribution to micro plastic pollution, food safety concerns, among others.