Agriculture can be a potential source of marine litter, as large volumes of plastic are used to store feed, as packaging or to protect crops. Plastic used in agriculture includes plastic film, foil (round bale plastic or growth film), plastic for storage (large bags for fertiliser, lime), rope, net and hard plastic in the form of cans and drums. Plastic from agriculture can end up in the environment in different ways such as through fragmentation, as a result of having been left behind or directly through wastewater sludge in the form of microplastics. The plastic is exposed to weather, wind and UV rays over time outdoors and fragments, disappears down into the soil, is displaced by wind or carried through precipitation and flooding to rivers, waters and the sea.
In Norway, round bale film and agricultural film constitute the largest proportion of plastic products used in agriculture by weight. Mepex estimates that the annual consumption of agricultural plastic in Norway is around 20,000 tonnes, of which around 13,000 tonnes represent consumption of disposable foil (round bale plastic and growth film). ECHA (the European Chemicals Agency) has also estimated that approximately 23,500 tonnes of microplastics are released from agriculture each year, which gives the sector the largest combined discharge to the environment compared to other business and industrial activities in the EU.