Plan rolls out to cut pollution by farms
China has rolled out a comprehensive action plan to promote the utilization of most farm waste and reverse the increases of fertilizer and pesticide use by 2020, authorities said, as the country promotes better rural garbage and wastewater treatment.
After receiving approval from the State Council, the action plan was published on Thursday by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
The plan says that by 2020, the use of major fertilizers and pesticides should start to decrease, while 85 percent of leftover stubble and straw at harvest time should be used as fertilizer or as a heating source, and 80 percent of plastic mulch film should be recycled.
It also said the amount of water used in agricultural irrigation should be kept below 372 billion cubic meters by that time, and the utilization of manure at livestock and poultry farms, which can be used to produce methane or as fertilizer, will be promoted to 75 percent.
Meanwhile, the government will also promote the establishment of household waste treatment systems in rural China. By 2020, treatment systems should cover rural areas in the eastern part of the country and rural areas close to cities in central and western parts, it said, adding that wastewater treatment will also be gradually promoted.
Li Bo, deputy head of science and education at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said China uses more plastic mulch film — which modifies soil temperatures, limits weed growth and improves crop yields — every year than the rest of the world combined.
The ministry has been taking measures to promote recycling and the development of biodegradable film.
Previously, a lot of plastic mulch was too thin and difficult to collect from farmland, as it was prone to breakage. The ministry has drafted a national standard for thickness to ensure that the film can be easily collected, Li said at a news conference, adding that the ministry is also promoting the use of machinery to collect the film.
“It’s not yet feasible to promote biodegradable plastic mulch widely in the country, as the cost of such film is three times the common type,” despite the efforts in research and development, Li said.
He said ways are being explored to get manufacturers more involved in collecting and recycling packages of fertilizers and pesticides. One of the possible solutions, for example, is asking sellers to return a certain amount of money to the buyers if they bring the packages back.
Su Kejing, head of soil ecology at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said all provincial regions across the country will have to draft implementation plans by the end of this year.
“The amount of agricultural pollution is huge,” Su said. “With the limited work that has been done, it will be a time-consuming task.”
Pollution-control work in rural areas is an important task in the rural revitalization strategy, according to the action plan.