I have something lurking behind my shed, and it’s getting bigger and bigger. I don’t know how to control it and I don’t know how to get rid of it. And I know I’m not alone. I’m talking about my plastic flowerpot mountain.
Every conceivable size and colour is represented in the unsightly heap – black, brown, green, square, round, shiny, matt and cracked. I’ve tried organising the pile into neat stacks, but they never quite fit – and really, life’s too short to stack flowerpots.
While I can reuse some of the pots for seedlings and cuttings, I’ve got far more than I need, and recycling options near me are extremely limited. And so the mountain grows and grows.
Pot recycling options limited
Plastic flowerpots are one of the ignored environmental burdens of our times. An incredible 500 million of them are in circulation every year, and most local authorities won’t recycle them (they’re made from a different type of plastic to food packaging).
Until recently, the garden centre chain Wyevale (now called the Garden Centre Group) offered a recycling service, but that’s now been dropped. That means only Dobbies, which has 26 outlets (mostly in the North of England and Scotland) and Notcutts (19 stores) will take them off gardeners’ hands.
Some progress is being made – biodegradable pots (made from coir, for example) are now available, which some nurseries, like the Hairy Pot Plant Company, exclusively use. However, we have come across a ‘biodegradable’ plastic pot that not only can’t be composted in a domestic heap, it even contaminates recycling streams!
That aside, the majority of plants are still sold in everyday plastic pots and the horticultural industry doesn’t seem to be doing much about it.
The future of plastic pots
There is some hope on the horizon. A company called Axiom Recycling is carrying out a pilot ‘bring back’ scheme at garden centres in the North West of England this summer.
The company will take the pots and turn them into plastic sheeting used in the horticultural industry, or new pots. Marketing director Keith Freegard says, ‘We want to challenge the fact that plastic pots can’t be recycled.’
In the meantime, it looks like it’s up to us to say ‘no’ to plastic pots. Ask your local garden centre if they offer a recycling scheme, take your old pots to Dobbies if there’s one near you, and if you see a plant in a biodegradable pot, buy it.
Is your shed overflowing with plastic pots and are you frustrated by the recycling limitations? Or have you found a clever use for your plastic pots that you’d like to share?