Garden Hits Recycling Stride

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If you’ve ever wondered what to do with all those plastic plant pots, take heart. They no longer have to stack up in your shed or head off to the landfill. It turns out most of that material is good for at least one more life, even if you don’t reuse them for growing plants.

For 10 years, the Missouri Botanical Garden has collected and recycled more than 300 tons of waste. In 2007, the garden set a new recycling record, sending more than 100,000 pounds of horticulture plastic to be reused. The garden conducts the Plastic Pot Recycling program in St. Louis.

Over six weekends in May and June, staff members of the garden’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening organize collections of plastic garden pots, polystyrene cell packs and trays. The program continues to expand to more green industry businesses, including landscape contractors, public works departments, grounds crews and wholesale growers. Some of the collections are coordinated with garden centers.

For 10 years, the Missouri Botanical Garden has collected and recycled more than 300 tons of waste. In 2007, the garden set a new recycling record, sending more than 100,000 pounds of horticulture plastic to be reused. The garden conducts the Plastic Pot Recycling program in St. Louis.

Over six weekends in May and June, staff members of the garden’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening organize collections of plastic garden pots, polystyrene cell packs and trays. The program continues to expand to more green industry businesses, including landscape contractors, public works departments, grounds crews and wholesale growers. Some of the collections are coordinated with garden centers.

More than 100 volunteers donated more than 500 hours to assist with this year’s recycling efforts. At each site, pots and trays are sorted and granulated into small chips, which are reshaped and sold back to consumers in the forms of ties for retaining walls and timbers for landscaping. The plastic timbers are resistant to water and pests, can be cut and drilled, and last longer than lumber.

Proceeds from the sale of the plastic timbers fund future collections. Grants also support the program.

“It is increasingly apparent that our disregard for the reuse of plant containers ends in millions of pounds of plastic being wasted into landfills each year,” says Steve Cline, manager of the Kemper Center and the founder and organizer of the Plastic Pot Recycling program.

Plans for the program in 2008 include expanding the fleet of trailers to gather material from more nurseries and garden centers, making satellite collection sites available year-round, and offering additional bins at collection centers to allow consumers to sort plastics. The garden also plans to reposition recycling trailers at the MOBOT collection site to allow drive-thru deposits throughout the year.

“Ultimately, our goal is to develop a workable system of collection and processing so that other communities can adopt a similar effort and evolve this into a common practice,” Cline says. “We are especially pleased that in the past three years (California-based) Monrovia Growers has taken a leadership step forward on behalf of the green industry and supported the experimental phase of the program. This public/private partnership enables us to continue the growth of a fundamental recycling program such as this. We look forward to other green industry support, including the container producers, as we deal with this ongoing waste issue.”

For more information on the recycling program, visit the Web site www.MOBOT.org/hort/activ/plasticpots.shtml, or call 314-577-9561. To purchase plastic timbers, call the Kemper Center at 314-577-9441.