Getting away from plastic has become the trend and not only in the greenhouse horticulture. More and more sectors are looking into new raw materials to become more sustainable. In the greenhouses, this has come in the form of one hundred percent biodegradable horticultural yarn made from PLA, a plant sugar made from starch from corn plants.
Lankhorst Yarns is working on this with their Elite Bio Twine and recently obtained the OK Compost-certification. However, since things are going so well with PLA, a scarcity has occurred on the raw materials market. “More and more sectors are finding out about this specific raw material, which is why the growth is currently stunted”, says Joris van Calcar of Lankhorst Yarns.
At the start of December, Joris received the certification from certification authority TÜV Austria. The certification will remain valid for five years and will be featured on all products and relevant documents. With the certificate, growers can show that their crop waste, including the horticultural yarn, is fully biodegradable/ compostable.
Industrial composting possible
“In fact, the finance that was available for the supply of raw materials is currently being tightened, through no fault of our own, which causes the supply not to be as stable as before. This is especially troublesome since more and more growers come to us for organic horticultural yarn. The results, both in tests and in practice with various growers, have been good. Thanks to the OK Compost certificate, we can now prove that the rope is fully biodegradable in the industrial composting process.”
Product development continues
At the moment, the success has also become a pitfall. But Joris also sees the positive sides of things. “It is a human trait not to change things when all is going well. Now everyone is being challenged to look for new raw materials and techniques by the external forces which they have no control over. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.”
Depending on the grower's wishes and crops, there are various ropes available in different sizes.
Joris sees something similar happening in the packaging industry, where they are also distancing themselves from plastic more and more. As an example, Joris mentions coffee cups made from PLA. “The advantage of our relatively thin rope when comparing it to one of those cups made from PLA is that our ropes are easier and faster to compost. For our horticultural yarn, it is however important that the raw materials are of good quality. The entire cultivation hangs in the balance, quite literally.”
Joris is convinced that compostable horticultural yarn remains a growing market despite all of this. “In a few years, plastic horticultural yarn is a thing of the past, especially given that now China has decided to ban all one time use of plastic products. Even in countries such as Canada, where growing with a minimum amount of plastic is even less of an issue than here in Europe, you can see movement towards more sustainable alternatives. We will be conducting a large scale test with our ropes on hooks there soon.”