Greening Up Our Image

For the last five months, I’ve been wondering what our industry can do to recover the plastic waste it generates and promote a more environmentally responsible image. It all began in June, when Beth Botts, garden writer for the Chicago Tribune, took our industry to task and even recommended gardeners reduce the number of plants they buy in plastic pots and start propagating their own plants from cuttings.

Just what our growers want, right?

More than half a million readers get the Tribune and the column was widely circulated in the industry, but we did not have an effective way to respond with a united voice to address this matter. Ed McConkey, president of McConkey Co. in Sumner, Wash., did write Botts a letter to present our industry’s side of the story through his experiences as a container manufacturer and distributor. So did Jessie Atchison on behalf of Ball Horticultural Co. and its environmental initiatives. But who speaks for our industry as a whole?

Whenever there are disparaging ads or news stories related to fresh cut flowers, the Society of American Florists jumps right on it and presents our industry’s side of the story. Who is telling our story related to sustainability? I’d like to see organizations like OFA and North American Horticultural Supply Association take a leading role. It could be as simple as creating a Web site we can direct people to for frequently asked questions related to our industry’s environmental responsibility and to showcase positive strides our industry is making.

There are things growers and their suppliers already do that are environmentally responsible and should be promoted, like conserving energy and recycling water. Emerging grower certification programs will be another way to demonstrate environmental responsibility.

On the supply side, I learned most of the plastic used to make flower pots is diverted from landfills. This isn’t common knowledge, but it should be! “We use millions of pounds of post-industrial and post-consumer scrap, but we’re still fossil-fuel based,” says Norm Belliveau of Summit Plastic. “We’re looking at different resins that are renewable and sustainable.”

He estimates 70 percent of the raw material Summit uses is recycled plastic and says that’s typical for most of today’s pot manufacturers, especially with petroleum spiking to more than $80 a barrel.

Plastics are our friends and have served the industry well for 50 years. All plastics are recyclable. It’s just a matter of recovering, sorting and cleaning them and getting them back into the right hands to be reused in manufacturing. I don’t think the answer is to abandon plastics but to expand recycling and find ways to make it cost effective.

Most recycling and garbage issues are local, and state programs may be the answer. In New Jersey, 10 growers recycled 3,320 pounds of polystyrene pots, 65,980 pounds of low-density polyethylene nursery film and 104,195 pounds of high-density polyethylene nursery pots this year through the state department of agriculture. The plastics were sold directly to a recycler. Instead of paying nearly $15,000 in landfill tipping fees, the growers generated nearly $8,000 in revenue selling the plastic.

Oregon has an agricultural plastic recycling center called Agri-Plas, Inc., which collects all types of plastic. While only 50 of Oregon’s 2,000 nursery growers are sending their plastic to Agri-Plas, they are diverting 80,000 pounds of plastic waste every week for the company to clean, chip and resell.

These are programs that could serve as a model for more growers.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Greenhouse Grower's GROW...
Company-Culture-at-AgBiome

January 22, 2018

Four Ways to Attract Employees With a New Approach to Company Culture

AgBiome is a participative, self-managed organization where no one has a boss. Instead, employees self-assemble as teams around organizational issues that need to be tackled, and internal experts help drive important decisions.

Read More
CareerUp

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More
Nathan-Nordstedt-in-the-Greenhouse-feature

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Industry to Offer Young People New Opportunities

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More
Latest Stories
Company-Culture-at-AgBiome

January 22, 2018

Four Ways to Attract Employees With a New Approach to C…

AgBiome is a participative, self-managed organization where no one has a boss. Instead, employees self-assemble as teams around organizational issues that need to be tackled, and internal experts help drive important decisions.

Read More
CareerUp

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More
Nathan-Nordstedt-in-the-Greenhouse-feature

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Indust…

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More
GROW

December 21, 2017

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: How You Made…

To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provides you with cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice that results in greater profits in everyone’s pocket.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the …

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More
HortScholars

December 8, 2017

HortScholars Program Now Accepting Applications for 201…

Do you know any college students currently in a horticulture-related program? This unique program gives them a chance to connect with industry leaders and make new connections at Cultivate.

Read More
GROW-Summit-2017-Group-Photo

December 5, 2017

GROW Summit 2017 Tackles Marketing and Business Managem…

This year’s think-tank style event brought together leaders from across the green industry to deliberate on topics such as disruptive marketing, cost accounting, and Millennials, to name a few.

Read More
Photo-with-Endless-Summer-Hydrangea

November 27, 2017

Why It’s Important to Get to Know Consumers at th…

One way to learn about consumer behavior is to get boots on the ground and engage with them.

Read More
Seed-Your-Future-feature

November 9, 2017

Dümmen Orange Throws Support Behind Seed Your Future In…

Dümmen Orange has announced it will pledge $450,000 over the next three years to Seed Your Future, the non-profit organization whose mission is to promote horticulture in the U.S. and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

Read More

November 1, 2017

Thanks to the 2018 GROW Sponsors

There are a number of industry organizations that help make Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative a success.

Read More
Marshall Dirks, Proven Winners

October 28, 2017

5 Rules for Creating a Lifetime of Outdoor Garden Memor…

Many customers are time starved. Their most important asset is time, not money, so be realistic about the investment of both when they are buying plants.

Read More
Living Umbrellas

October 25, 2017

Why Living Umbrellas May Have a Bright Future

Sometimes innovation strikes by chance. Such was the case with David Tilley, developer of the “Living Umbrella.”

Read More
Luxflora Paris Trip

October 20, 2017

Luxflora Paris Trip Offers Insights on Trends Shaping H…

Each year, Luxflora hosts an international trip that allows participants to gain insights on trends and gather inspiration that ultimately will shape and support our industry in many ways. This year’s event took the group to Maison & Objet and Design Week in the City of Lights – Paris, France.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

September 23, 2017

Producing Quality Plants in the Greenhouse Starts From …

It's common for growers to make mistakes. What you learn from those mistakes is what sets you apart as a grower and where quality starts.

Read More
Quality in the Greenhouse

September 21, 2017

Two Head Growers and a Retail Live Goods Buyer Talk Bes…

Ultimately, the quality of the plants you grow will be responsible for the success of the consumer, and consumer success will ideally translate to repeat sales. That’s why quality must be a top priority for all growers, according to Brad Julian, a Live Goods Buyer for Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Head Growers Dennis Crum of Four Star Greenhouse and Joe Moore of Lucas Greenhouses.

Read More
Jan Gulley, Gulley Greenhouses

August 25, 2017

Why It’s Important to Educate and Engage the New Hortic…

Young adults entering the workforce have more professional choices than ever before, and many want to work in environments in which their work has a clear purpose for both the organization and society at large.

Read More
Seed Your Future feature

July 26, 2017

Seed Your Future Aims to Inspire Careers in Plants

Who will be the next generation of horticulturists? The answer lies in helping to change the perception of horticulture and using contemporary new language to tell our stories.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

July 8, 2017

How You Can Use Lifestyle Marketing to Sell Plants

Should we be trying to educate consumers into loving what we like to produce, or should we allow consumers to educate us into producing what they love?

Read More