Commercial horticultural nursery Johnsons of Whixley is trailing a new type of plant pot that is detectable by recycling centres, to help lead the fight against plastic waste in the industry.
Johnsons’ new cream-coloured plant pots are detectable by waste separation systems, which mean they can be put back into the recycling stream.
They are distinct from standard pots, which feature a carbon pigment that compromises recognition, and results in millions of pots ending up in landfill every year.
Johnsons’ new product is currently undergoing vigorous testing to identify any impact on growing performance. If no issues are identified, the new pots will be pushed out to the business’s retail customers.
Johnsons of Whixley group managing director, Graham Richardson, said: “For many years, we have been putting any black pots used internally back into plastic waste recycle stream, and have strived to be environmentally friendly in everything we do. The new pots we use every day are over 98% made from recycled plastic.
“We currently supply our landscape contractor customers with plants in standard black plastic pots and recognise that it will take a long time for that sector to adopt a new pot. But we are optimistic about the testing process and don’t currently anticipate any issues in terms of ‘growability’.
“Once we have overcome that hurdle, we will work with our customers to ensure they understand the environmental advantages of the new pots.”
Reducing single-use plastic waste has been a hot topic for some time now and the HTA met with members last month to discuss the future of plastic pots within the garden industry. Johnsons of Whixley, along with Allensmore Nurseries, Darby Nursery Stock, Double H Nurseries, Farplants, Hill’s Plants , Lovania Nurseries, New Leaf Plants, The Bransford Webbs Plant Company and Wyevale Nurseries were all keen to collaborate to find a sustainable alternative.
The consensus was to move away from black to taupe and use a carbon black pigment-free polypropylene, made of household waste where possible, that can be identified by NIR and therefore recycled through kerbside schemes. Taupe was the preferred colour option, being a neutral tone that is also on trend and sufficiently different from black, although the most important factor in the choice of colour was that it would be easily recognisable by consumers as suitable for kerbside recycling.
HTA director of operations Martin Simmons said: “We need to work towards a common replacement colour for the industry that growers can adopt and roll out. Couple this with the addition of a recognisable recycling symbol or logo in the near future to add to the specified pot type and we can work towards a system which consumers understand and act on. This issue has great momentum and the growers attending are keen to spread the word and get the wider industry involved. The industry has a real opportunity to lead on this issue.”
Johnsons of Whixley takes its green credentials very seriously and, over the years has strived to pioneer environmentally-friendly processes in the horticultural industry.
Highlighting its other achievements, Graham Richardson added: “Our waste pots are collated, palleted, and collected by the company that supplies the business with new pots, and subsequently recycles them into a wide range of low-grade objects.
“Polythene sheeting has been recycled for many years by specialist firms, who take all kinds of plastic from land-based firms. Our own is collected by a local recycler and forwarded on for processing.
“Almost all fertilisers and small quantities of compost are supplied in polythene bags, and these are also recycled.
“As a business, we are subject to the Packaging Waste Regulations, which impose a levy on the amount of packaging produced in order to compensate for the central funding cost of waste management and recycling.
“We are members of the Pennine Pack organisation, which is responsible for monitoring returns related to packaging waste and the purchase of PRNs (Packaging Returns Notes) to ensure that waste has been recycled under strict controls, and that the appropriate levies have been applied.
“And for the last five years, the company has supported the Ethical Compliance Packaging Scheme, whereby recycling is undertaken within the UK.”