I'm always looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly, so when I heard about plantable "grow bags," I was excited. These bags are made from biodegradable plastic and contain moisture absorbers, a seed ball and fertilizer. In theory, once the recyclable bag has been used to grow a young tree or shrub, it will disappear into the soil. However, according to a recent study published in the journal Ecological Economics these bags may not break down as quickly as we'd hope for—and that could have some undesirable side effects. While the bags do degrade (albeit slowly), they leave behind microplastic fragments as they do so which could remain in the ground for decades after our trees grow to full size provide shade wind protection carbon sequestration This isn't the first time environmentally conscious products haven't held up in reality
What are grow bags?
Grow bags are plastic containers that can be filled with soil and used to grow plants from seed. They're often marketed as a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional garden beds because they're reusable, portable, and compact. The study in question tested two types of Groasis's "grow bags" by placing them in a greenhouse with an automated watering system: the patented Greenhouse in a Bag (or GIAB) and its larger version, the Growbox.
What did they find?
The authors concluded that GIABs require less water than traditional gardens if they're kept under shade cloths or tarps during hot weather months—but only if you don't count the energy required to manufacture them or bring them home on your car's roof rack! They also found that both types of GIAB take up less space than traditional raised beds but may actually need more fertilizer over time to maintain optimal plant growth since each bag holds fewer plants than an equivalent area within an open garden bed.
The bag is made from a biodegradable plastic, which contains moisture absorbers and a seed ball. The seed ball contains fertilizer and the seed of your choice. The Dutch designed bags are used to grow young trees or shrubs.
The bag will break down over time, and the nutrients it provides to the plant will be absorbed by the soil. In theory, once the recyclable bag has been used to grow a young tree or shrub, it will disappear into the soil.
You might be surprised to learn that these bags are not as green as you'd hoped. A recent study by the University of Indiana found that greenhouse vegetable production bags take a very long time to break down, leaving behind microplastic fragments for decades after the trees grow large enough to no longer need them. The study showed that the bags don't degrade well at all, even under ideal conditions. Not only is this bad news for our environment, but it's also bad news for growers who want to reuse those same growbags in future seasons - they'll have to replace their recycled material with new ones every year instead of simply reusing old ones!
While the bags do degrade (albeit slowly), they leave behind microplastic fragments as they do so. These tiny pieces of plastic are harmful to marine life and can enter the food chain, and have been found in our poop. The plastic polymers that make up grow bags are made from crude oil, which is a fossil fuel and therefore contributes to global warming pollution through its extraction. Grow bags also contain agricultural chemicals that may be toxic to humans if ingested during cooking or washing produce grown in them.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that have recently been found everywhere from our oceans to our own poop. Microplastics are smaller than 5mm and can be broken down into two categories: primary microplastics, which come from larger items like plastic bottles and bags, and secondary microplastics, which come from the breakdown of primary ones.
Primary microplastics are a major source of ocean pollution due to their large volume (up to 60% by weight) in many products such as single-use plastic bags, water bottles, food packaging and electronics. Although it’s not known exactly how much is currently in the ocean or if our water supplies have been contaminated with microplastic pollution yet, we do know that they’re there — because they’re all around us! You see them on your beach vacations or even closer than that—in lakes near where you live!
Secondary microplastics get their name because they form when larger chunks of plastic break down into tiny pieces over time through exposure to UV light, chemicals or mechanical forces like waves washing back up onto shorelines after being dumped into oceans by careless humans who don't care about what happens once something goes out with them into nature.
These fragments will still be hanging around in the ground for decades after the trees grow to full size and provide shade, wind protection and carbon sequestration. If a tree dies, these fragments won't decompose like wood normally would. Instead, they'll sit there for years waiting to be broken down by insects or fungi. When that happens, animals that rely on dead wood for food may not get it—and this could mean fewer animals around to help keep ecosystems healthy.
It's important to keep in mind that there's always room for improvement, and many environmentally-conscious companies have had their products found wanting. The need for rigorous testing of products to make sure they live up to their claims is crucial.
It's also clear that this isn't the first time eco-friendly products have fallen short of expectations. In the past year alone, a number of environmentally conscious innovations have failed to stand up to scrutiny:
You’ve probably heard that plastic bags are terrible for the environment. They take forever to break down, they choke wildlife and they’re one of the biggest sources of litter on our beaches. But since going plastic-free is easier said than done, reusable cloth bags are a great alternative. They can be used multiple times and washed when needed, saving you from having to buy disposable ones over and over again—and helping keep those harmful plastics out of landfills as well.
But before you pick up your next grow bag from Target with pride in your heart and mind (or maybe even spend $65 on one), it might be worth considering whether these products actually live up to their eco-friendly claims or if they are just another example of marketing at its most insidious: promising us something without any proof that it works or telling us what we want to hear without any regard for science or facts whatsoever.
Of course, we can’t know for sure if these bags will be effective in their mission until they’re put to the test in real-world conditions. But it’s important to keep in mind that these products aren’t perfect, even when they seem like they should be. It appears that many companies advertise eco-friendly solutions without fully considering their environmental impact—and consumers should be cautious about trusting such claims without some evidence behind them first.