Reduce Plastics in the Garden

By Tim Wells Agents for Becausewecare.

Most of us want to reduce the amount of plastics we use in our households. In some countries such as Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland there are Government imposed levies on disposable plastics e.g. for plastic shopping bags. However, in horticulture there have traditionally been vast amounts of plastics used, whether it is plastic plant pots, weed retention matting or other uses. Unfortunately most of these plastics are difficult to recycle and end up clogging up garden sheds up and down the land or worse, end up in landfill where they will stay for hundreds of years.  Horticultural pursuits which should be natural and environmentally focussed still rely too much on disposable, non-recyclable plastics.

In the UK alone a staggering 500 million plastic plant pots per year are brought into circulation with the majority of those being used once and then discarded.

The plastics that these pots are made from are difficult and expensive to recycle, and council or privately run recycling stations often refuse to take them. But what is the alternative? Plastic pots are easy to use and handle and are cheap. Ideally most gardeners would like to use a more environmentally friendly alternative. Peat based pots that can propagate a seed and then be planted directly into the soil have been around for years. However, as they are peat based there are issues surrounding the sustainability of the material used to make them. From a practical point, peat pots have a habit of crumbling and falling apart when the seedling is growing and being watered. Also due to their thickness they can often take a long time to degrade in the soil and the roots of the growing seedling can find it difficult to grow through the walls of the pots. In addition the pots themselves absorb the moisture from the soil within them, meaning that the growing plant may have to be watered more often with a risk of over watering.

There are other pots available that are made from cow manure, coir and other natural materials, but they all have compromises, whether it is cost or ease of use, compared to the plastic plant pot. It would be great if a pot was available that had the flexibility, ease of use and affordability of plastic pots with the benefits to the environment of being compostable and biodegradable and made from sustainable resources. Such a product has been recently introduced to the UK marketplace.

Becausewecare™ is an Australian company that manufactures a range of environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable plastics. One of their products is the becausewecare™ compostable seedling pot. The pots are designed to propagate and grow a seedling, and when ready, be planted directly into the soil, where they will biodegrade, releasing nutrients into the soil as they do so. The Becausewecare™ seedling pots are made from a by-product of corn production, they are literally made from waste corn that is not suitable for human or animal consumption. In addition the corn that is used is grown in an area of high natural rainfall, so the crops do not require irrigation. Unlike peat based and plastic pots, these compostable pots are made from an annually renewable and sustainable resource. They are certified compostable to European, US and Australian standards for compostability.

One of the key things about the Becausewecare™ pots is that they have the advantages of plastic pots, they are light and easy to handle, and can be watered without significantly altering the rigidity of the pots. The pots do not absorb water, thereby leaving the compost within nice and moist for the growing plant with no risk of over watering. Once planted in the ground the pots degrade quicker than peat based pots and because they have very thin sides, the seedling’s roots can grow through the sides of the pots rapidly.
The pots are ideal for grow it yourself gardeners and are perfect for growing any plant from seed. They minimise root disturbance from transplanting and help develop strong root systems. The best thing is that these pots are kind to the environment and are step towards cutting down on the reliance of plastics in the garden.

It makes sense to try and use natural and eco- friendly products such as these to grow your own produce and plants and cut down the crazy amounts of non-recyclable plastics in the garden. Once these pots have been used they will leave no trace on the environment, even the packaging they come in is compostable and biodegradable, and importantly they are a practical and useful alternative without compromise.

3 Replies to “Reduce Plastics in the Garden”

  1. I completely agree about the issue with plastic pots. Their over use is one of the many unsustainable practices in horticulture that frustrates me. As you say, this is an industry/hobby with its roots in nature (no pun intended). If we cannot show concern for our surrounding environment how can we expect anyone else to? You have hit the nail on the head when pointing out that plastic pots are cheap. So I think for any sustainable alternative to really take off it has to be priced competitively in comparison because those with tight budgets will not be able to accommodate. If expensive, products become niche and only used by those most passionate about environmental issues and then you are preaching to the converted. These new pots sound a little bit like Vipots which are very good but considerably more expensive than their plastic friends. I’m interested to hear more about this product and I truly hope it is competitive and a success.

  2. Hi Lucy,

    Many thanks for your comments. You are right about the cost of eco friendly products. Luckily our compostable pots are price equivalent with the plastic alternatives, so hopefully gardeners who grow plants from seed will make the environmentally friendly choice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *