Black plastic pot replacements, bee-killing hornets scare
AMATEUR Gardening is backing moves within the horticultural industry to replace black pots with recyclable alternatives. One-use plastic is currently Public Enemy No 1 thanks to the BBC nature series Blue Planet and Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don, who has moved towards using degradable coir substitutes. Black plastic has a bad press because it contains a carbon pigment that isn’t picked up by infrared recycling sorting machines, which means it can’t be recycled through kerbside schemes and ends up in landfill.
Now leading plant growers led by Worcester-based Bransford Webbs have got together and are working with plastic pot manufacturers to replace black pots with recyclable taupe alternatives.
The new pots will be phased in over the next 12-18 months and will be in garden centres by next summer.
Bransford Webbs managing director Adrian Marskell explained: “The industry decided to get together and come up with a solution to the problem of recycling black pots. Taupe pots were the result.
“They are made by the major pot manufacturers, and then plant suppliers such as ourselves will use them when we supply our plants. We have closed the loop – gardeners buy plants in these pots, put them in recycling and they are made back into new pots.”
Mr Marskell added that the pots can be washed and reused if wanted. The only downside is a small price increase.
“We have closed the loop for recycling pots”
Coir is good but more expensive
The Hairy Plant Pot Company, based at Kirton Farm Nursery in Hampshire, supplies plants in coir pots made by hand in a village in Sri Lanka. Their USP is that the coir degrades, allowing plant roots to push through and spread instead of circling the rootball, as can happen in a plastic pot.
The business uses reusable wood trays and plant labels, and is currently developing waterproof card labels, which will mean that all the products are made from sustainable materials.
Company director Derek Taylor said: “We have been seeing more interest in our pots and an increase in sales year-on-year, so this has been a good year so far.”
He added that while coir and wood products look attractive and are a good replacement for plastic, they are more expensive to make and buy.
Mr Taylor said: “It costs a lot more money than simply spotting out a plastic pot that is cheap, easy to make and can be easily washed and reused.”
The public is widely behind the industry’s move to reduce one-use plastic and many garden centres have already introduced have pot recycling schemes – ask your local one if they recycle and encourage them to do so. AG COLUMNIST Peter Seabrook thinks there are more controversial matters than gardeners’ pots when it comes to discussing the issue of one-use plastic.
He says that gardeners are ‘a soft touch’ and the problem lies with the equipment used in recycling screening centres, which can’t pick out the black pots due to their carbon content.
Peter said: “I think it would be better if we paid more attention towards the litter dropped cross the country that blows into our rivers.
“From what I understand, black plastic pots aren’t recyclable because the sorting equipment can’t pick out the black, but that they could be recycled if different equipment were introduced.”
He added that the new ‘battleship grey’ pots will be more expensive in the short term and may not last as long as the black ones once the carbon has been removed.
Peter also urged gardeners to wash and reuse their black and red pots wherever possible.
He said: “I reuse my pots repeatedly by washing them after use. I have some small square plastic pots that fit in a tray – I use them two or three times a year for sowing and cuttings and I have been using the same ones for more than 50 years.
“I go into hospitals and retirement homes where the staff wear blue plastic gloves that they throw away after each use. Shouldn’t we be paying attention to that, rather than pots?
“And what about people who dump litter? Drivers are prosecuted for going 5mph over the speed limit, but why aren’t litter-droppers prosecuted?”
New taupe pots are a durable replacement to black plastic and can be recycled in your kerbside bins Reused pots will last for years
Coir pots can be expensive
Peter’s views on plastic