The war against plastic is ramping up, with major retailers making bold plastic-free pledges following pressure from their customers.
While the big focus so far has been on food and drink packaging, with over 90 percent of shoppers backing plastic-free supermarket aisles, attention is shifting to other lifestyle choices like gardening.
The invention of the plastic plant pot in the 1960s was a game changer and today it’s estimated 500 million plastic plant pots and seed trays are sold every year.
However, plastic gardening products can take up to 450 years to biodegrade if they aren’t recycled.
The Greenhouse People have put together their top tips for going plastic-free and it’s easier than you may think to make the switch…
Seek out alternatives
It may seem obvious but the most effective way to reduce plastic in your garden is to simply stop buying it.
With demand growing, more garden centres are offering biodegradable pots made using materials such as coir (from coconut husks), wood chips, rice husks and even seaweed. Terracotta also makes a great rustic alternative.
If you’re feeling extra resourceful, scoop out the insides of half a lemon and fill with soil, before scattering a small number of seeds. Once the seedlings sprout, you can transfer to a larger area. Lemon peel also acts as a natural fertiliser, making it a great multi-purpose alternative to plastic.
consider compost substitutes
Shredded paper, stale food, coffee grounds and filters.
On paper, this might sound like a bizarre combination but, if you’ve ever wanted to make your own compost, you need to add these strange items to your list of essentials.
Other household staples you can substitute plastic bags of compost for include tea bags (non-plastic), cooked pasta and rice. Weirder still, you can even make use of hair and dead plants!
Repurpose plant pots
One of the main benefits of plastic is that it’s durable and very unlikely to break. The same cannot be said for the more brittle terracotta and ceramic pots.
However, you should definitely not dispose of them if they break. Plant pot shards are easy to repurpose. You can place them in larger pots to protect the soil from unwelcome pests or stick them in the ground and write on them to create handy plant labels.
Use a plant pot return service
If you aren’t ready to swap your plastic pots just yet, good news is several garden centres offer a free plastic plant pot return service.
Dobbies has its very own version where you can return both plastic and polystyrene pots, while B&Q operates a community reuse scheme.
opt for metal equipment
When it comes to gardening tools, it’s important to think about durability, comfort, as well as the interests of the environment.
With this in mind, if you’re serious about reducing the amount of plastic in your garden, opt for metal equipment which should far outlast their plastic rivals.
Metal can rust, so a little TLC is needed at the end of each season to keep them in tip-top condition. Clean each tool with a rag or brush, using warm soapy water, then when dry spray with WD-40 or rub down with mineral oil. Store hanging on hooks (away from the damp floor) in a dry airy location for the winter.
Share your equipment
If you find you’ve somehow accumulated lots of plastic-based tools and equipment, don’t fret.
Should you use a community allotment or have friends who also enjoy a spot of gardening, why not suggest sharing your plastic equipment or handing it down?
Be a green pioneer and inspire fellow gardeners with the changes you’re making and they may just follow suit. Remember, knowledge is power, so if you’re serious about preserving the environment, lead by example.