Apr 26, 2023
Organic Week session to explore reducing plastic throughout supply chain

The Organic Trade Association is partnering with The Organic Center in an effort to reduce the production of plastic throughout the supply chain.

“Reducing Plastics Along the Entire Organic Supply Chain” is part of the Organic Confluence sessions planned during OTA’s 2023 Organic Week, to take place May 9-10 in Washington, D.C. Scientists, industry experts and organic stakeholders will convene to discuss breaking the plastic cycle and reducing plastic use from farm to table.

“Reducing Plastics Along the Entire Organic Supply Chain” is part of the Organic Confluence sessions planned during OTA’s 2023 Organic Week, to take place May 9-10 in Washington, D.C.

“The organic sector’s use of plastics is a key concern for everyone involved in the organic food system, from the organic farmer to the organic retailer,” Amber Sciligo, director of science programs for The Organic Center, said in a news release. “The use of synthetics such as plastics is at odds with traditional organic values, but plastic is used for critical tools that serve important functions. For instance, farmers can replace herbicide and pesticide sprays, and reduce water consumption, with tools like plastic mulch and drip tape. Available alternatives to plastic that also meet the National Organic Program’s standards just aren’t there yet.

“Our conference is gathering individuals from every aspect of organic because finding a solution to this critical issue requires input and collaboration across the sector. This isn’t just organic’s problem to solve, but we can be leaders on the path to change.”

Plastic is prevalent in the food chain, from row crop coverings and irrigation tubing in the field to packing, shipping and grocery displays. Biodegradable plastic mulches are being developed, but questions remain about how completely they break down and whether they comply with organic standards, according to the release.

The issue of BPA (Bisphenol A) in plastic packaging and whether it should be allowed in certified organic packaging has long been under discussion at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). While several independent companies and farmers have developed suitable packaging substitutes for plastic, a cohesive strategy and framework for plastic alternatives has not been developed, according to the release.

“Because of the multifaceted nature of the issue of reducing plastic use in organic production, processing, and distribution, effective discussions investigating strategies for plastic alternatives and organic regulations of plastic use require input and collaboration across the organic sector,” Sciligo said. “I’m excited to have representatives from the whole supply chain in the same room having this discussion together, instead of tackling each component separately as is typically done.”

The Organic Center’s conference will address the challenges of plastic from the perspective of waste, climate change and environmental and human health. It will bring together scientists with farmers, retailers, processors, distributors and policymakers to share needs, priorities and experiences.

“Our long-term goal is to increase the sustainability of organic production by reducing the use of plastic across the entire organic food chain. Our overall objective is to expand communication and collaboration across the diverse organic sector with policymakers and researchers at the table so that the industry can reimagine plastic use in organic production,” Sciligo said.

Registration for the event is now open, and an agenda is available online.

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