Vignes en ville designs and operates urban vineyards while reusing urban waste through an innovative soil mix.
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Valorizing crushed glass in urban agriculture soil mixes
Incorporating crushed glass in urban agriculture soil mixes to preserve sand and to valorize glass waste.
Solution: Incorporating crushed waste glass in agricultural soil mix to preserve sand and to valorize glass waste. The solution was first implemented in 2017 through a customized soil mix for an urban viticulture research project in which important quantities of sand would have been required. Knowing that crushed waste glass was abundantly available and that its main mineral composition (silica) was similar to sand, a non-renewable resource, we decided to make our soil mix out of crushed waste glass instead of sand. The word started to spread out and we created multiple partnerships with Canadian institutions to implement the innovative solution into various agricultural fields. As of today, we incorporated crushed waste glass on 4 major urban agriculture sites including 3 Canadian institutions (Palais des congrès de Montréal, ITHQ, SAQ) and one private company (Ubisoft Montreal). We will incorporate our solution on a 5th site in May 2020 on the rooftop farm of the Centrale Agricole, the world's largest urban indoor/outdoor agriculture incubator and accelerator. So far, 13,000 glass bottles have been diverted from landfill with this process. That wide variety of sites and designs allowed the study of the benefits of adding crushed waste glass to a growing medium or using it as a mulch. Over the two last growing seasons, we noticed that the vines with glass in the soil mix were growing just as well as those with sand. As part of the initial research, the solution was incorporated in potting soil with vine in an urban context, but it could also be used in large scale agricultural fields with a diversity of plants to serve different purposes. One interesting purpose of glass mulch for example is to repel some non beneficial invasive insects thus reducing the need for strong and non organic chemical products. Moreover, during its research Vignes en Ville made a substantial discovery. When adding a source of fungi (mycorrhizae) to the vine soil mix, it accelerates the decomposition of crushed glass into its components of silica and carbon, leaving little-to-no trace of glass and possibly enhancing the capture of carbon by the plant host, in this case the vine. The implications of this discovery could be that tons of waste glass can be efficiently decomposed and returned to the environment, recycling valuable nutrients for food production and thus upscaling the circular economy of glass. Therefore, we are now developing a new research protocol to further push our study on crushed waste glass as an agricultural medium to determine how quickly and efficiently the mycorrhizae decomposes crushed glass in the potting mix. This potential solution could create major impacts by enabling waste reduction, conservation of non-renewable sand resource and nutrient recovery for food production that could be a change in the actual paradigm.