THE DRAIN IN SPAIN

ALME­RIA, SPAIN

Focus-Science and Technology - - FUTURE FARMING -

The Span­ish green­house com­plex dubbed the ‘sea of plastic’ is so well-known there’s even a TV showed named af­ter it. El Mar De Plás­tico fol­lows a fic­tional mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in which a girl’s blood has been drained and then fed into the sprin­kler sys­tem.

Each year, 3.2 mil­lion tonnes of fruit and veg are grown in these green­houses. Their vast white ex­panse, cov­er­ing some 300km2, cre­ates an albedo ef­fect akin to a small ice sheet – the re­gion re­flects 9 per cent more sun­light than it did in the early 1980s. This may help to re­duce lo­cal warm­ing, but can’t off­set the over­all en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of such a mas­sive hor­ti­cul­tural op­er­a­tion. Water is drained from be­low the al­ready parched land to ir­ri­gate crops and there’s a waste prob­lem that in­cludes 480,000 tonnes of re­ject fruit and veg a year. More of this waste could be com­posted or mixed into an­i­mal feed, while re­cent re­search at the Uni­ver­sity of Almería rec­om­mended a green 'biore­fin­ery' ap­proach that would trans­form some of it into build­ing ma­te­ri­als, biodegrad­able plas­tics and spe­cial­ist chem­i­cals.

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