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Microplastics in Composts, Digestates and Food Wastes: A Review


  • Katherine Porterfield University of Vermont
  • Sarah Hobson University of Vermont
  • Deborah Neher University of Vermont
  • Meredith Niles University of Vermont
  • Eric Roy University of Vermont



food waste, contamination, anaerobic digestion, composting, soil, microplastics


Diverting food waste from landfills to composting or anaerobic digestion can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enable the recovery of energy in usable forms, and create nutrient-rich soil amendments. However, many food waste streams are mixed with plastic packaging, raising concerns that food waste-derived composts and digestates may inadvertently introduce microplastics into agricultural soils. Research on the occurrence of microplastics in food waste-derived soil amendments is in an early phase and the relative importance of this potential pathway of microplastics to agricultural soils needs further clarification. In this paper, we review what is known and what is not known about the abundance of microplastics in composts, digestates and food wastes and their effects on agricultural soils. Additionally, we highlight future research needs and suggest ways to harmonize microplastic abundance and ecotoxicity studies with the design of related policies.


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