With the addition of Ecovio® F Mulch, BASF is expanding its line of biodegradable plastic compounds in the form of a grade for use in the manufacture of agricultural films. In contrast to agricultural film made from conventional polyethylene (PE), film made from Ecovio F Mulch biodegrades. It is no longer necessary for farmers to retrieve the film from the field for disposal or recycling after the harvest. They can simply plow it under along with what remains from the plants. This saves time and reduces costs. Production of the film is also economical, since it can be manufactured at a lighter gauge than conventional PE film without any loss in performance. Moreover, Ecovio F Mulch represents a drop-in solution for the film producer: Since this resin can be processed on conventional PE extrusion machines without extensive modification, the processor can convert his equipment quickly and without great effort. The material is now available in commercial quantities around the world.
A blend for direct production of film
BASF has been offering Ecoflex® F Mulch for years, a grade of biodegradable polyester that compounders have mixed with other components to produce individual formulations of mulch films for their customers in agriculture. "With Ecovio F Mulch, the company is now going one step farther to better address the requirements of farmers and film producers", explained Jürgen Keck, head of BASF’s global business in bioplastics. The new material is a blend of Ecoflex and polylactic acid that is already optimized for agricultural applications – compounding is no longer necessary. In addition, film made from Ecovio F Mulch can already be used at a thickness of 10 micrometers (µm) without experiencing tears and perforations when placed on the field by machine. Conventional PE film is usually at least twice as thick.
The new plastic grade is suitable for the production of classical black and transparent but also for colored films. Moreover it is available in custom formulations for different vegetation times and climates.
Mulch film under test
To test the performance of its resin, BASF conducted comparative investigations with recognized agricultural institutes in Spain and France. These involved growing vegetables in different locations without mulch film, with conventional PE film as well as with Ecovio F Mulch film. The institutes investigated growth and yield in addition to the tear strength of the film. While for this purpose melons and lettuce were planted in France, the institutes in Spain grew tomatoes and peppers. All tests demonstrated that growth and yield do not depend on the type of plastic film. Compared to growing without film, use of film always increased yields by 10 to 20 percent. In addition, the Ecovio F Mulch film biodegrades in the soil after having been plowed under.
Mulch film is used worldwide for crop forcing (early harvesting) and weed prevention, since it accelerates growth and retains water in the soil. In Europe, the focus is on black mulch film: Thanks to its ability to absorb visible radiation, it helps to prevent growth of weeds.
Biodegradable plastics Ecoflex and Ecovio
Under the brand names Ecoflex® and Ecovio® BASF (ecovio.de) offers biodegradable and compostable plastics that comply with European standard EN 13432 with regard to biodegradability, compostability, compost quality and plant compatibility.
Information on Ecovio® F Mulch from BASF: ecovio-mulch[.]basf.com.