Bio-Pots Add Value, But How Much?

A Purdue University-led study finds consumers are willing to pay more for a variety of sustainable pots that use recycled materials.

"The floriculture industry uses a lot of plastic, and, in recent years, has come under pressure to become more sustainable and use biodegradable or compostable pots," says Roberto Lopez, an assistant professor of horticulture at Purdue and co-author of the paper on the findings. "There is concern about recouping the costs of becoming sustainable. People say they are willing to spend 50 cents more for sustainable pots, so we wanted to see if they actually would."

Surveys have consistently shown consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable products in the floriculture industry. Purdue’s Brian Wallheimer, however, says the industry has been slow to adopt items such as sustainable pots because growers have concerns about recouping the cost of investments in sustainable practices and materials.

The Research

Purdue researchers teamed with researchers at Michigan State University, Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota for this study, which began with groups of consumers who were given $30 at a silent auction. These consumer participants could either keep this money or put in bids on flowers contained in different types of pots.

Each auction item gave information on the type of pot, the carbon footprint it had and the amount of recycled materials it contained, Wallheimer says. Bids were averaged to see what people would pay for the plants in sustainable pots.

Survey results show consumers claimed they would pay 69 cents more on average for pots made from rice hulls. At the auctions, however, consumer participants were willing to pay 58 cents more. For straw pots, the consumers said they would pay 63 cents more, and at auction they were willing to pay 37 cents more. And consumers said they’d pay 24 cents more for wheat pots, and actually paid 23 cents more at auction.

"People’s stated preferences were similar to what they were actually willing to pay for the sustainable pots," says Bridget Behe, a professor of horticulture at Michigan State University and a co-author. "Overall, consumers were willing to pay a little more for some of the alternatives."

Adds Purdue’s Lopez: "What this says is that if a grower is going to take the initiative to be a sustainable grower, they can increase their prices to go to these pots, and consumers will pay more for them."

For more on the study, visit ag.purdue.edu. Next, Lopez will look into sustainable pots and how they hold up under greenhouse conditions.

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2 comments on “Bio-Pots Add Value, But How Much?

  1. Anonymous

    No, what this says is they are willing to pay more at a controlled silent auction. In the real world at the point of purchase it’s hard to imagine many consumers sayiny, ” I wonder what’s the carbon footprint of that pot”?

    My senese is they will pay more but the products will not be high volume. Take the straw pot in a 306 configuration retails for $9.97 and a 306 in plastic retails for $5.97, that’s a $0.67 per plant premium. The other issue is , what is the carbon footprint of thses alledgedly sustainable containers?

  2. Anonymous

    No, what this says is they are willing to pay more at a controlled silent auction. In the real world at the point of purchase it’s hard to imagine many consumers sayiny, ” I wonder what’s the carbon footprint of that pot”?

    My senese is they will pay more but the products will not be high volume. Take the straw pot in a 306 configuration retails for $9.97 and a 306 in plastic retails for $5.97, that’s a $0.67 per plant premium. The other issue is , what is the carbon footprint of thses alledgedly sustainable containers?