Keep those plastic pots out of local landfills

Planting time

It’s planting time, but what will you do with all those plastic pots after the plants are in the ground?

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Published: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 02:52 PM.

Fall is planting time; for pansies, perennials, trees, and shrubs, fall is the best time to plant in the south. But there is a problem. Almost every plant you purchase comes in a plastic pot. After the plant is in the ground, you are left wondering what to do with the pot. Don’t just throw it in the landfill, where it will join the 30 million tons of plastics Americans dispose of each year. There are better options! Keep pots and other types of plastic out of the landfill by recycling.

Local recycling options

Recycling plastic pots, packs, and flats that plants are grown in is not always as simple as recycling soda and water bottles. Plastic drink bottles marked with the recycling code 1 are made of PET plastic, one of the most easily recycled types of plastic. Nursery and greenhouse pots are made from other types of plastic, including high density polythelene, known as HDPE and marked with recycling code 2; polypropylene, marked with recycling code 5; and polystyrene, marked with recycling code 6. While every town and county recycling program in our area accepts PET or code 1 plastic, fewer accept the types of plastic from which plant pots are made.

A check of county websites in our area showed that New Hanover and Brunswick counties accept plastics that are clearly marked with recycling codes one through seven at their convenience centers, while Pender only accepts plastic bottles with codes one or two. Most towns in our area also only accept plastic bottles with the recycling code one or two, though Town of Burgaw and City of Wilmington both accept plastic types one through seven. If you are not sure which types of plastic your municipality accepts, check their website or call your local public works department. Don’t give up if your plastic containers are not clearly marked with a recycling code or if your town or county will not accept them, there are other local options.

Take them to a nursery

In 2011, Lowe’s launched a nationwide program to accept plastic plant pots, flats, and packs at their stores, including the six Lowe’s locations in our region. Plastics that are returned to North Carolina Lowe’s stores are sent to Metrolina Greenhouses, just outside of Charlotte, NC. Metrolina is one of the largest greenhouse operations in the United States and a major supplier of Lowe’s plants. Once the plastics arrive at Metrolina, they are sorted by plastic type. Pots and containers that can be reused are cleaned and put back into production. Those that cannot be reused are shredded and sent to a recycler. Some of the plastics are used to make new plant containers while others are used to produce plastic landscape timbers and other outdoor plastics. Plant pots and containers are not recycled into drink bottles or other PET plastic items.

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