Issue 02 | 2020
Within the European Union alone, 2,600 farms are engaged in a hop-growing industry, covering the 26,500 hectares, (60 % of the total surface area used for a hop-growing worldwide), with an annual hop production capacity of over 50,000 tonnes. Slovenia is ranked as the EU’s 3rd largest hop producer (5th in the world) and produces near to 3,100 tonnes of hops on 1,700 ha
per year. However, the most firmly anchored practice in Slovenia for hop growing management is still the use of fossil-based polypropylene (PP) twines, which on one hand provides an excellent mechanical performance, but on the other hand the periodic entry of non-degradable plastics, pose a serious burden to the environment. Furthermore, hop cones are considered to be the only useful material of the hop plant, while the remaining biomass (vines & leaves) because of the synthetic plastic twine residues, is currently discarded as a non-compostable waste, typically sent to incineration plants or uncontrollably burnt on the fields. In response to the problem described, a new European project LIFE BioTHOP, now proposes a new circular economy-based model to improve hop waste management. This model combines bioplastic twine materials based on poly(lactic acid) (PLA), with an ability for conversion into a novel feedstock for biodegradable, compostable and recyclable packaging as well as horticulture product accessories.