Plastic use within the Garden Retail trade: Can we do anything about it?

Back in February 2018, Garden Centre Retail published an article on the use of plastic in the garden centre trade.
The question posed was:

“Considering the use of plastic packaging in horticulture, what steps should a garden centre take to show a corporate social responsibility?”

The idea was to generate discussion and to propel a more sustainable train of thought for packaging and pots etc.
Sophie Shaw, a self-employed gardener said: “A garden centre could introduce a scheme which is the same as the plastic bottle deposit scheme.
“Supermarkets are considering a small deposit to pay on bottles to encourage customers to return them for their money back.”

Plastic flower pots

Sophie continues: “This could work the same with plastic garden pots. Especially for nurseries which could use them again straight away.
“It would also work for garden centres that could have a collection scheme in place.They can return them to suppliers when more stock comes.
Plastic pots
Hair Pot Company pots

“Another idea is cutting out plastic pots altogether and using a biodegradable material like The Hairy Pot Plant Company.

“Another benefit of this is that they can go into the ground.
“I’ve noticed even though some people try and reuse plastic plant pots for propagating their own plants, a lot of people don’t know what to do with them.
“They end up going in the bin and to landfill as they’re not recycled in normal council plastic recycling schemes.”

The view from the garden centres

Sarah Squire

Sarah Squire, deputy chairman, Squire’s Garden Centres said:Whilst we have a range of measures designed to ensure we operate in a responsible manner, there is still more we can do.

“Programmes such as the BBC’s Blue Planet have done much to highlight the harm plastics caused and have operated as a wake up call to us all.
“As a company we are keen to work harder with suppliers to speed up the reduction of plastic packaging. Our colleagues and customers will expect nothing less.”

Plastic is an issue in all retail areas says Matthew Bent

Matthew Bent

Matthew Bent, managing director, Bents Garden & Home said: “Plastic packaging is an issue in all areas of retail. As a garden centre we should be leading the way.

“This is why we set ourselves such high recycling targets. Whenever possible encourage our customers to do the same. “We have operated a plant pot recycling scheme for many years, encouraging customers to return their pots to us by offering 50p off their plant buy. All returned pots are recycled along with any pots and trays from our nursery which can’t be re-used.
“The plastic bag charge has made a huge impact as a wider initiative and one which we have welcomed. We have researched the best and most friendly material for our plastic bag. Like our plastic car liners, they are now made of API which degrades over time.
“We also offer regular deals on our canvas ‘bags for life’ to encourage more customers to use these bags. “In response to the increasing focus on reusable drink cups we are introducing an internal system where we provide our colleagues with reusable drinks containers.
“We are also looking into the recyclability of the disposable cups we use in our restaurants to see if we need to make any changes. We have already replaced our plastic straws with an eco- friendly variety.
“As a business we are committed to our ‘Five Green Footprints’, identifying areas where we can make a difference to the world around us. We are reviewing our sustainability and researching new opportunities for improvement.”

Corporate responsibility

Sam Bosworth, director, Bosworths Garden Centre said: “The difference between showing Corporate responsibility and doing something that makes a difference can be a long way apart. It’s important for us to work together as an industry to provide a solution.
“It will be very difficult for independent businesses to do something to change the bigger picture. Having a pallet box in the corner of the planteria for customers to deposit used pots is not an option!
“We have tried using second-hand pots on our nursery, but this isn’t practical, hygienic or cost effective.
“Due to the vast array of shapes and sizes, and our large supplier base of plants it is not practicalto send anything back to the nurseries. “In an ideal world, we as would provide a hub for the return of plastic plant pots and marketing trays. These could then be collected as part of a regular round and taken to a recycling depot. It would deal with a huge volume of difficult to recycle pots and trays, and give all participants a story to tell our customers.
“Over to our trade association to pull it together.”

Start with plastic bags

Vicky Tate

Vicky Tate, owner, Lime Cross Nursery said: “We need to start by ditching the plastic bags, that is key.

“We hardly ever give out plastic bags anymore, but I want to completely phase them out. It irritates me when customers come in and ask for a plastic bag. I’d like to say no, we don’t supply them.
“The other issue is the plastic pots, there needs to be a big push to recycle these. We currently reuse all our plastic pots when we are growing.
“You can send them back to Aeroplas if you can get enough together. When you have such a small volume like we do, they aren’t interested. It’s disgusting that we don’t recycle them. Every garden centre should have a pot recycling point, but it’s not that, it’s the bigger issue of where they go after that.
What’s your view on plastic within the garden retail trade? Have your say by emailing

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