The world population is expected to undergo a substantial growth, reaching over 9 billion people in 2050. Providing an acceptable standard of living to all will require both new technologies and a more resource-efficient life style. Plastics can contribute in a number of ways to meet this challenge.
Using plastics in agriculture to improve growing conditions, can triple crop yields. Greenhouses with climate control, for instance, allow a production of 33kg/m2 of tomatoes where crops in open air would barely yield 9kg/m2. Plastic tunnels enable food production and multiple harvests to be achieved in environments that may otherwise be considered as too dry, cold or infertile, while nutrients contained in plastic bags or containers can help grow crops hydroponically where no soil is available. These crops can also be protected from floods, thanks to securely moored plastic greenhouses - currently being developed in The Netherlands – that can float when water levels rise.
By 2025, two billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. Plastic pipelines can transport water, virtually leak free, over long distance as well cater for small diameter distribution networks. Plastic pipes used in computerised irrigation systems help farmers avoid wasting significant quantities of water. Plastic drippers mounted in plastic pipes can provide tailored irrigation under all topographical conditions preventing water loss and resisting damage. Finally, when the scarcity of fresh water becomes critical, plastics can enable desalinisation technologies and the “plastic super grids” for long distance water pipes will secure hygienic and leak free distribution of water.