J Environ Manage. 2021 Dec 30;305:114407. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.114407. Online ahead of print.
In recent years, some countries have replaced single-use plastic bags with bags manufactured from compostable plastic film that can be used for collecting food wastes and composted together with the waste. Because industrial compost contains undeteriorated fragments of these bags, application to field soil is a potential source of small-sized residues from these bags. This study was undertaken to examine deterioration of these compostable film microplastics (CFMPs) in field soil at three different localities in Italy. Deterioration of CFMPs did not exceed 5.7% surface area reduction during the 12-month experimental period in two sites located in Northern Italy. More deterioration was observed in the Southern site, with 7.2% surface area reduction. Deterioration was significantly increased when fields were amended with industrial compost (up to 9.6%), but not with home compost. Up to 92.9% of the recovered CFMPs were associated with the soil fungus Aspergillus flavus, with 20.1%-71.2% aflatoxin-producing isolates. Application of industrial compost resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of CFMPs associated with A. flavus. This observation provides an argument for government regulation of accumulation of CFMPs and elevation of hazardous fungi levels in agricultural soils that receive industrial compost.