Is Recycling The Only Answer?

Is Recycling The Only Answer?

Whose responsibility is it to ensure horticultural plastics are recycled?

It’s a question plastics manufacturers, growers and retailers have batted around for years, but it’s a question that still doesn’t have a definitive answer. East Jordan Plastics is clearly the recycling leader among manufacturers, venturing into the business in 2008 with a recycling facility in South Haven, Mich. Other manufacturers, including The Blackmore Company, Dillen Products and Landmark Plastic, are following East Jordan’s lead in plastics recovery at greenhouse operations.

A number of growers have been progressive in plastics recovery, as well. North Carolina-based Metrolina Greenhouses, for example, recovers a remarkable number of plastic pots and trays from Walmart and Lowe’s stores. Most trays can be reused and are sorted by type, cleaned and checked back into inventory on shrink-wrapped pallets. The pots and trays that aren’t reused are taken to a nearby plastics recycler in Asheboro, N.C.

Independent garden center retailers, including Boulevard Flower Gardens and Strange’s Garden Center in Virginia, have also been recycling leaders. The two recently participated in a pilot project in the Richmond area in which 7,500-plus pounds of plastic containers and flats were collected.

Still, consumers expect our industry to do more with horticultural plastics to “green” the planet, be it through recycling or something else that’s publicly deemed “environmentally friendly.”

“Whether a plastic is made from agricultural oil or a petrochemical process, you still have to do something with it,” says Paul O’Neill, a manager of grower products and agricultural engineer at Beaver Plastics. “So what do you do with it at the end of the day?”

Other Solutions

If recycling isn’t the answer, perhaps manufacturers can find solutions on the front end of plastics production, specifically in new materials or additives. A.M.A. Plastics, for example, makes Al’s Flower Pouch, which is not a recyclable product. Al’s Flower Pouches are typically purchased from garden centers in small quantities, making consumers prone to pitch them into the trash along with other random items.

But the trash is exactly where A.M.A. Plastics wants its product to land, because an oxo-degradable film additive helps the product degrade when it reaches certain environmental conditions–such as those of a landfill.

“For us, the way you solve the problem is through oxo-degradability,” says Rick Bradt, managing director at A.M.A. Plastics. “We know it’s going to a landfill, so let’s make sure it at least breaks down in a landfill. The oxo film essentially becomes food for microbes. The microbes eat it and it becomes water and carbon dioxide.”

Another solution is to offer horticultural plastics that are designed to be reused by consumers year after year rather than tossed into a recycle bin after one year’s use. One product with such a design is the Weekender, a hanging basket with a removable liner. The hanging basket is made of polypropylene and is guaranteed to last consumers 10 years.

“Customers like the Weekender pot,” says Karl Eckert, the owner of Eckert’s Greenhouse and designer of the Weekender. “The Weekender is even priced differently because it is a lifelong basket and it’s a green product, even though it cannot be recycled.”

Plastics manufacturers are even looking at non-plastics as options to achieve the environmental friendliness they seek in products. Jiffy Products America’s CarbonLite pots, trays and flats are primarily starch based and reduce a manufacturer’s dependence on oil. And like Al’s Flower Pouch, CarbonLite products largely biodegrade in landfills.

“CarbonLite is clean, green and affordable,” says Rick Friedrich, Jiffy’s general manager. “It’s reducing carbon emissions through low energy production of the products. The materials we use to create the CarbonLite are carbon-absorbing products. We’re reducing the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere and, in theory, reducing global warming.”

Jiffy’s CarbonLite initiative is very much based on the front end of production. As a global company, Jiffy is concerned most with reducing global warming, reducing waste and improving consumer health. Recycling is one widely accepted way to achieve these objectives, but Friedrich questions whether plastics recycling is really the right thing to do.

“Recycling isn’t necessarily very friendly to the environment,” he says. “First, containers are manufactured and they’re heavily petroleum based. There’s a lot of dependence on foreign oil there. They go to the grower, then the retailer and finally the consumer. The consumer transports them back to a recycling center, and that takes gasoline. Recycling trucks have to collect them to take them back to the recycling center, and then energy is used to break down the process.”

Considering the carbon footprint Friedrich outlines, Jiffy is steering toward developing products that are degradable, biodegradable or compostable.

“I’ve found our industry puzzling,” he says. “We create so much beauty but we use so much plastic. Now, there are opportunities to make consumers feel good about buying their petunias and pansies in containers that are friendly to the environment.”

Changing Cultures

Still, the majority of manufacturers, growers and retailers see recycling as a good thing–or at least an upgrade from discarding plastics as trash. Growers are already recycling items like plastics and cardboard, and plastics manufacturers are largely doing the same.

Greenhouse Grower visited Landmark Plastic in Akron, Ohio, in advance of this report and found multiple examples of recycling, from regrind pellets used in Landmark’s thermoforming production lines to the dust that’s collected through filters and eventually sold as an ingredient for other products. We saw countless bulk skids, as well, that eliminate the need for cardboard.

“Twenty-five years ago everything was boxed and floor loaded onto trucks,” says Jim Frederick, Landmark’s national account manager. “Now, we are selling more items in bulk skids and bagged or taped bundles.”

Company cultures toward environmentally friendly practices have changed remarkably in Frederick’s time, as well. Cultures have changed, he says, because consumers demand it. But, he argues, companies and other entities must do more. Consumers must be educated that recycling is good, and additional avenues to recycle No. 5 and 6 plastics, in particular, must be provided.

“Recycling is getting better at the township level,” Frederick says. “There are Waste Management trucks now that have sections for cardboard and plastic.”

An Interesting Takeaway

In the big picture, horticultural plastics are just a sliver of all plastics in the waste stream. But even that sliver projects us poorly to consumers whose minds have shifted to more environmentally friendly options.

So perhaps the best place to start the conversation about horticultural plastics is recycling, and where the most horticultural plastics are consumed: the box stores

“If anyone can make recycling work in this country, it’s Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot,” says Samantha Ponting, Landmark’s marketing manager. “It’s one of our main talking points when we get together with the big box stores. Because of their large geographical coverage and ability to help educate consumers, they’re the ones who can really start to make a difference.”

Leave a Reply

More From Crop Inputs...
Orius_June 2015

September 25, 2016

Peace Tree Farm Hosting Biocontrols Event In October

“Advanced Greenhouse Biocontrols for Ornamental and Vegetable Producers” will feature advice from biocontrol authorities Lloyd Traven and Suzanne Wainwright-Evans.

Read More
steve-larson-bayer

September 23, 2016

Bayer Continues Its Shift Into The Ornamentals Market

The company has announced its 12 distributor partners, and also recently named Steve Larson — formerly with Color Spot Nurseries — as its ornamental specialist.

Read More

September 21, 2016

Floriculture Industry Working To Solve The Whitefly Problem

This summer, the floriculture industry has been faced with a dangerous new development — the detection of the Q-Biotype whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) in outdoor landscapes. It’s the first time that the Q-Biotype has been found in the U.S., outside of a greenhouse or wholesale nursery, since the pest was first detected on an ornamental plant in an Arizona greenhouse in December 2004. This year in Florida, there have been 47 detections of the Q since April, in retail nurseries and residential landscapes in 10 counties in Florida, from Miami-Dade to Duval County, primarily on hibiscus. Other hosts involved are crossandra, eggplant transplants, lantana, ficus, and porter weed. The detections have been in 17 retail nurseries, eight wholesale nurseries, 10 residential landscapes, and two agricultural fields. Other states have reported Q-Biotype detections this year, as well. The discovery of Q-Biotype whitefly in the landscape is troubling for the entire ornamentals industry, […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Orius_June 2015

September 25, 2016

Peace Tree Farm Hosting Biocontrols Event In October

“Advanced Greenhouse Biocontrols for Ornamental and Vegetable Producers” will feature advice from biocontrol authorities Lloyd Traven and Suzanne Wainwright-Evans.

Read More
steve-larson-bayer

September 23, 2016

Bayer Continues Its Shift Into The Ornamentals Market

The company has announced its 12 distributor partners, and also recently named Steve Larson — formerly with Color Spot Nurseries — as its ornamental specialist.

Read More
Biocontrols and beneficials absolutely can be used in outdoor production, with the use of banker plant systems

September 19, 2016

Learn About Biological Controls In The Greenhouse In A …

Michigan State University Extension (MSU) and Kansas State University Research and Extension are collaborating on a pre-recorded online course on “Biological Control for Greenhouse Growers.”

Read More
Bees And Pesticides

August 23, 2016

Studies Offer Conflicting Views On Neonic Effect On Bee…

How much exposure to neonicotinoids do bees need before their health becomes affected? That’s the question two research teams look to answer.

Read More
Chrysanthemum Aphid

August 22, 2016

How To ID And Manage Black Aphids In Chrysanthemums

Growers in Michigan have recently been reporting a higher presence of this pest. Here are some tips on how to control it.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

August 22, 2016

Cannabis Group Stays Focused On Consistent Standards Fo…

The Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS), is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit organization, is in the process of developing cannabis-specific standards for everything from cultivation and extraction to packaging and retail.

Read More
Leaf Septoria In Cannabis

August 21, 2016

Three Diseases To Watch For In Cannabis Production

The development of root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf septoria can damage cannabis to the point of complete crop loss.

Read More
Greenhouse Whitefly

August 18, 2016

Vestaron Planning For More Research And Development Of …

On the heels of launching Spear-T, its first bioinsecticide, Vestaron has received additional financing that will be used to develop new products with new modes of action.

Read More
BioWorks Mycotrol

August 17, 2016

New Organic Mycoinsecticide From BioWorks Now Registere…

BioWorks’ Mycotrol can be used to manage whitefly, thrips, aphids, and other insects in greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Downy mildew lesions on light coleus cultivars feature

August 12, 2016

How You Can Control Downy Mildew In Coleus, Roses, And …

Downy mildew diseases are potentially devastating to ornamental crops and at the very least can cause unsightly damage. Check out the latest research and recommendations for preventing it.

Read More
Jen Browning BASF

August 4, 2016

Horticulturist And Entomologist Jen Browning To Speak A…

Browning will discuss the use of nematodes in managing pests in greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Poinsettia, Heavy Whitefly Infestation -Lower Leaves, Insect - Feature

August 3, 2016

Tips For Successful Late-Season Whitefly Control

Managing late-season whiteflies successfully on poinsettia requires preventative measures put in to action early in the production cycle.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

July 28, 2016

Solving The Cannabis Crop Protection Problem

A largely unregulated sector of the industry, state departments of agriculture, biocontrols companies, and other industry pros are dedicated to helping growers make the right pesticide decisions for their operations.

Read More
Aphids On Older Leaves

July 25, 2016

How You Can Stop Aphids By Understanding Their Interact…

Knowing which aphids target which crops and how aphids colonize and move on plants goes a long way toward setting up an effective management plan.

Read More
BASF Orkestra Intrinsic

June 21, 2016

New Mode Of Action From BASF Offers Deeper Disease Cont…

When it comes to disease control, you need all the help you can get. BASF recently hosted growers, Extension personnel, and trade media to present its newest fungicide with two active ingredients, offering dual modes of action.

Read More
Nematodes-feature

June 4, 2016

New Biocontrols Provide Effective Pest Control In Green…

Biological chemistry manufacturers have introduced several new products recently that offer a range of insect and disease management options. Here’s a look at some of them.

Read More
Whitefly

June 2, 2016

Breaking News: Florida Growers Reporting Major Whitefly…

Reports have come from the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County that whitefly populations in landscapes are reaching unprecedented levels and are not responding to pesticide applications. Biotype-Q has been found in four different communities. University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science researchers are working with USDA-APHIS, USDA-ARS, the Florida Department of Agriculture, and growers and landscape professionals to manage the developing problem.

Read More
Triathlon BA container shot

May 24, 2016

OHP’s Triathlon Biofungicide Now Listed By The Organic …

Triathlon BA is a broad-spectrum preventative biofungicide that provides control of many foliar and soilborne diseases in ornamentals and herbs.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]