Aiming to stem the tide of plastic pollution, Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) has his eyes on plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides.
These coatings are used to slow the release of the ingredients underneath, and while that has beneficial effects, Hansen says the plastic that remains behind is harmful to the environment.
“Healthy soils are not healthy when they are littered with plastic,” he said.
He sponsors HF3751, which would ban the sale and use of pesticides and fertilizers in Minnesota that are coated in plastic.
The House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee laid over HF3751, as amended, Wednesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.
Of particular concern to Hansen are microplastics and nanoplastics that result from a partial breakdown of the plastic coatings due to exposure to ultraviolet rays and other biological degradations.
Those particles either remain in the soil or wash away into waterways, both of which are harmful to the environment and to human health.
“I have yet to find anyone who wants to eat or drink plastic,” he said.
Nonagricultural plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides would be banned beginning Jan. 1, 2024, and agricultural plastic-coated fertilizers and pesticides would be banned starting one year later.
That deadline would be too soon for manufacturers to change their formulas, said Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), citing European studies concluding that developing slow-release formulas using different methods would take up to 10 years.
In the meantime, he said Minnesota farmers would have to revert to applying nitrogen without slow-release characteristics, and that would lead to undesirable amounts of nitrogen runoff into water systems.
Anderson said he would be in favor of funding research to study the issues rather than imposing a ban.
Because of likely proprietary formulas, and therefore trade secrets, he also said it might be difficult to determine whether manufacturers are using the types of plastic that would be banned.
Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Mpls) sponsors the companion, SF2701, which awaits action by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee.