Opt for eco-pots, supplier urges

Garden centres must look beyond recycling plastic pots and towards using biodegradable pots, according to Erin Pulp Packaging sales development manager Steve Benn.

The company, based in County Offaly, Ireland, wants retailers to re-examine their attitudes after HTA retail committee chair and Scotsdales Garden Centre managing director Caroline Owen said it is "impractical for growers to change from plastic pots to other pot options" (HW, 12 June).

Benn said: "Garden centres and nurseries know this is a problem, with 500 million plastic pots in use.

"While production of cheaper and cheaper plastic pots may seem to be the way to go for many growers who are looking to hold down the cost of production to remain competitive, they may not be looking at the bigger picture or even the carbon footprint of the customers' return, collection, sorting, cleaning and recycling of the plastics they put into today's waste streams.

"Now must be the right time to look at pots made from biodegradable organic materials or recycled materials such as paper.

"What people are focusing on is how to dispose of, recycle or re-use these pots but they don't try to work out how the industry can better use biodegradable containers so they will withstand the growing/marketing chain.

"They can re-use plastic pots in the nursery but market the plant in a biodegradable pot so plastic pots don't need to leave the nursery.

"It's a bit like the cow not leaving the dairy - the cow produces milk and stays in the dairy and you market the milk in a carton."

Benn said paper, coir and other options are available as pot materials. He added that paper pots are more affordable in larger sizes up to 40 litres and has approached Wyevale and grower RA Meredith & Son.

Erin will be at Glee this September with composts and pots to try to get retailers to rethink.

Benn added: "In all the years that I have been involved with Erin and talking to plant producers about Erin's Eco Pots (KEF Pots) the main objections have been over handling and the need to change from current practices when using plastics. It would make a great deal of sense now for the industry to put as much effort into 'proving' production systems using biodegradable pots as 'plastic pot replacements'. If anyone has any knowledge of such initiatives I would welcome their comments."

Wyevale sustainability director Dr Alan Knight said: "We have steered away from paper pots because of shelf-life issues, the fear being that the decay process could start while products are still on our shelves.

"I am happy to discuss this with anyone who can reassure our operations guys that we are wrong to think this way."

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