Reducing the environmental impact of polyethylene mats
Sixty million square metres of polyethylene mats are used in horticulture, gardens and parks, and homes across Australia each year.
According to environmental consulting group AgEconPlus, a partner in our research programs, these mats never fully decompose after their use.
Additionally, these mats have other environmental implications wherein they prevent rainfall to the soils beneath causing unnecessary runoff and evaporation.
Coming up with a high pressure solution
Using linseed straw and high pressure water jets, we have developed a new type of matting. This unique technique enables linseed fibres to be linked together to form a compact fabric.
The materials have been developed as part of the Australian Government's National Weeds and Productivity Research Program, managed by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). The RIRDC invested A$12.4 million in research aimed at improving the knowledge and understanding of weeds, as well as providing land managers with new tools to control weeds and reduce their impact on agriculture and biodiversity.
Researchers believe it could also be made using other agricultural waste materials, such as hemp or banana fibre.
These materials, unlike their plastic counterparts, are organic and will disintegrate at the end of their lifecycle. Testing indicates the materials retain moisture, encouraging healthy soils beneath and reducing unnecessary runoff and evaporation.
Benefiting growers, manufacturers and suppliers
This technology has the potential to benefit growers involved with organic and biodynamic production across the horticultural sector as well as manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural and garden products.
The linseed mat process has exciting implications beyond outdoor matting. For example, the fabrics could be used to create eco shopping bags, minimising the synthetic materials currently being used.