Air Date: Week of March 23, 2001
GRABER: You may soon hear the question "Paper or plastic?" down on the farm. Today, more than 300 million pounds of black plastic mulch are spread on fields across the nation to warm the soil and discourage weeds. But the plastic sheets are bulky and often coated with herbicides and pesticides, so most landfills won't accept them. It's illegal to burn or bury the plastic mulch, but that's what many farmers wind up doing anyway. So one government researcher is working on a ground cover that can be plowed into the soil. It's made out of brown kraft paper covered with a layer of hardened vegetable oil. The oil helps keep moisture in and keeps the paper from biodegrading in the rain. But by the end of the growing season, the paper is starting to break down and can be composted into the ground. That's this week's technology update. I'm Cynthia Graber.
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