How Green is Your Garden?

Plastic_plant_pots

The irony of gardening is sometimes it’s really not that green. There’s the pesticides, the weedkillers, the endless watering, the invasive species… and don’t get us started on the power tools. But, if there’s one thing the green-fingered amongst us can all get behind, it’s the overuse of plastic plant pots. There are millions of these lurking behind garden sheds, destined for landfill or the incinerator once we have that big clear-out at the weekend.

The trouble with plant pots is they are made from polypropylene. In the past, this has been difficult to recycle because it melts at a different temperature to other plastics. Local authorities opted to recycle other types of plastic as they were more common and so polypropylene fell by the kerbside. This is no longer the case, however, old habits die hard and many consumers are unaware that sorting technology has become more widespread and economical and so most local authorities are now able to recycle it. So, unless told otherwise, put plant pots in the recycling.

If, indeed, you are told otherwise then you can find somewhere else to recycle them on Recycle Now. On this site, you can select a specific piece of waste (click Recycle a specific item and check plant pots under plastic packaging), enter your postcode and, boom, there’s an address where you can take them. Obviously, it defeats the object in carbon terms to make a special journey to the tip but, if you’re passing, like.

You may be lucky and have a garden centre near you that will take your old plant pots. They will bundle them up and have old pots taken to a recycling site on your behalf. But don’t think they are going back into the supply chain as plant pots, they are likely going to be crushed and recycled rather than reused.

Of course, the better solution is to buy plants that don’t come in plastic pots. The Hairy Pot Plant Company, based at Kirton Farm Nurseries, sells its plants in coir pots with peat-free compost and supplies nurseries and garden centres across the UK.

 

 

Low Hanging Fruit

Dog_poo_bags

It’s a wonderful thing that most dog owners are now clearing up after their fur babies. The question is: what to do with it? This is an area where one size does not fit all and urban and rural environments differ.

In cities, the norm is to pick it up in a plastic doggy bag and plonk it in a special dog waste bin or plain old litter bin. Or just take it home and put it in the trash, double-bagged.

Sticking with the bin option, let’s be clear, this means your dog waste is going to landfill. It’s considered hazardous and councils are not going to trawl through litter bins to find these bags of brown gold. So poo and bag will sit underground for many dog years and human years, without oxygen and definitely not decomposing. Debate rages around whether it’s worth using compostable bags but, at some point, landfill conditions may change and we might as well give poop a chance with a non-plastic bag.

Unlikely to become the go-to option for the mass market, there are wormeries and waste-specific compost bins out there that may be worth exploring if you want to avoid landfill.

One thing that’s absolutely clear, we contacted Thames Water and they said under no circumstances is it to go down the loo. Dog excrement can be highly toxic and should not enter the water cycle – plus those bags are not going to do the fatbergs any favours.

Animal waste (bagged or otherwise) must not be put down toilets.

says Thames Water.

The countryside is a different matter and the use of bags at all is controversial. There’s badger, fox and other carnivores’ poop all over the countryside so the least worst option would be to scoop the dog mess and chuck it under a hedge. Or flick it into the long grass. Others suggest burying it. Basically, get it off the path and avoid the bag-bin-landfill route.

The absolute no-no is to put it in a plastic bag and hang it from a tree like a ghastly bauble. A curiously common sight in the countryside, we’re pretty sure it can’t all be explained away by dog walkers on circular routes who will ‘pick it up on the way home’. Just how long is that walk? It’s been 2 months already and it’s still hanging there! [see picture above].

It seems the ubiquitous use of dog poo bags may need revising. In towns, absolutely; in the countryside, a scoop or a flick is best.

Action

Petface Combi Poop Shovel

Water Cooler Moments

Water_Bottles

Some of us at Unplastic are old enough to remember photos of Kate Moss in the ’90s clutching a bottle of Evian. What was made cool by supermodels quickly became ubiquitous, with the consumption of bottled water doubling in the last 15 years.

Those defining backstage moments have led us to where we are now, with each of us downing an average of three bottles of water a week. Most bottles do not get recycled: 2,500 water bottles were collected from the banks of a stretch of the Thames on a single day last year.

Plastic waste not withstanding, why are we even drinking bottled water? Evian is not the elixir of life and it’s not going to make you look remotely like Kate Moss. While access to clean water is a crisis in many parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the UK has had piped water for 200 years and the London domestic supply was deemed an inspiration to other cities way back in the 1820s. Selling bottled water to Londoners is akin to coals to Newcastle. If you don’t believe us, find out how clean London’s and the rest of the UK’s tap water is here.

In an ironic twist, it turns out bottled water is where the contamination lies. Researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia found plastic in 93 percent of bottled water samples – which included Evian, Aquafina, Dasani, Aqua, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino – originating from the cap and the industrial bottling process.

The fastest way to kill a trend is to have it taken on by the masses. So let’s have one final water cooler moment, and agree to head to the tap.

Action

Get your workplace to join the #OneLess movement.

Sign up to refill water bottles.

Donate to WaterAid UK.