Just one word: plastics

They were said to be the future some 40 years ago. And now, I've got a small mountain of them. There are plastic pots, plastic, multi-cell seedling packs, and plastic flats -- not to mention the plastic bags full of pea gravel, mulch, and my multitude of specialty potting soils. I rummaged through all of it just last week, so that I could plant some extra spinach and kale in the greenhouse. Though I tried, I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't had so much plastic around. 

It's been estimated that gardeners' pots, seedling packs, and nursery flats account for up to 320 million pounds of plastic annually. Worse yet, only a small percentage of the 20-odd million tons of plastic generated in the U.S. each year is recycled. For my part, I do at least reuse my plastic pots and cell packs season after season until, invariably, they crack and fall apart. And then? As there is no entity in my area which recycles this garden variety plastic, I throw it "away." (Although I know full well there is no such place. . .)

It's almost hard to be a gardener without relying on the stuff in one form or another -- but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Those cute little peat pots are technically a biodegradable alternative to plastic ones, but peat mining isn't exactly earth-friendly. Aside from disturbing wildlife and native plants, peat bog mining can also negatively affect local water tables. With that in mind, I'm turning my attention away from peat, too.

Recently, some alternatives to peat have hit the market, but I'd still prefer my gardening supplies to be a little less processed. That's why I'm planning to scour garage sales and the local flea markets for good old-fashioned clay pots and wooden crates. Oh, and I'll be making my own seedling pots out of newsprint. The process is simple, and, now that the print industry has largely gotten away from using toxic inks, planting in newspaper pots is safe. Maybe I'll get out from under this mountain yet.


I have pretty much given up buying new plants for this very reason! Recently, I called the nursery where I normally buy plants to find out if I could return the plastic pots to be reused. I was told in no uncertain terms that the store will not accept them back. So, I'm not buying new plants. Only planting seeds. And what about potting soil? I'm composting my food and yard waste and making my own. I've been blogging about reducing plastic consumption and plastic waste for about six months now at, and gardening is one area that needs a container makeover!