Cutting Costs By Giving Back

Cutting Costs By Giving Back

Missouri Botanical Gardens’ Dr. Steve Cline created
a recycling program for consumers, retailers and greenhouses.

The idea of saving money while helping the environment used to be a bit of wishful thinking. However, with the price of oil continuing to rise, the latest trend popping up all over the country is plastic recyclers. This can open a whole world full of savings for the average greenhouse grower, who produces all kinds of plastic waste–from pots, flats and plug trays to greenhouse poly and irrigation tubes. The grower can achieve all these savings while preventing those plastics from going into the landfill to sit for the next thousand years.

Why It’s Important Now

The first question is why would you want to go through all the effort, right?

Greenhouse growers are always looking for ways to cut costs, rather than raise prices. If that is, indeed, the goal, then greenhouse growers can’t afford not to recycle. That’s a bold statement, but becoming more true by the moment. With the price of oil soaring past $90 a barrel–and by press time likely surpassing the $100 mark–recyclers are clamoring for all types of plastics to recycle and sell to manufacturers. Of course, petroleum is one of the main ingredients in all plastics, which means the cost of making and selling (and buying) plastic materials will increase unless reground materials are provided at a lower cost than “virgin” materials.

So how does this affect the typical greenhouse grower? With a plethora of plastic at his or her fingertips, the grower is in the perfect position to provide plastic materials to recyclers, some of whom pay for shipping and the actual product. It also allows the grower to reduce the amount of waste taken to a landfill, thereby reducing tipping fees at that time.

“If growers can put it (plastics) into the recycling system or deliver it to the recycling site, they will actually get some money back rather than pay to remove it,” emphasizes Thomas Dudek, district Extension horticulture and marketing educator for Michigan State University Extension ( “I think that’s what one of the big incentives is–in some cases there is a financial incentive. Besides that, it’s really doing the right thing by becoming environmentally sound. I think some of the buyers are looking at growers and how sustainable they are, too.”

How It Works

We all know how recycling works. You sort your plastics, cardboard, glass, paper, etc., and the recycling truck comes to pick it up curbside each week (or you take it to a facility). But the process is a little different for a greenhouse, which produces far more waste than the traditional household (unless you’re talking about mine).

Dudek has set up an easy way for greenhouse growers in Western Michigan to pair up with recyclers and begin a program. He has created a list of recyclers in the area, detailing what they take and how they take it.

“You have to clean up your act if you want to market plastic waste, because they don’t want mud, soil and media–big clods of it–in the product,” Dudek explains about the recyclers’ expectations. “What happens in the processing of it, if it’s chopped up, it may be another contaminant. In the case of the stainless steel knives they’re using to chop it up, it may dull the knives. Knock out the pots, get the majority of the visible media out of the pots–you don’t have to power wash them.”

He adds growers should keep the poly film on a clean surface to keep it as dirt-free as possible when they roll it up. Dudek also recommends if the grower isn’t sure if the recycler will take that type of plastic, he or she should provide a sample to the recycler before collection.

Generally, it is up to the grower to sort the product at the greenhouse and either transport it to the recycler or have the recycler pick it up. Some recyclers only trade in certain types of plastic, while others take it all.

Dr. Steven Cline ( works in the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and he has created a recycling program there for consumers, retailers and now greenhouse growers.

Cline adds that no recycler can make anything out of a mix of all the different types of plastics together, so the sorting process is vital to the success of the recycler and ultimately of the grower. Both Cline and Dudek recommend working with the recycler extensively to find out the best method for both and set up a system. Some recyclers will conduct what’s called a “waste audit” to see what materials can be recycled at the operation before the process even begins.

Programs Already In Place

Dudek and Cline are just two examples with resources in place for growers and retailers looking to recycle plastic products. They recommend checking first with any state Extension office, and next with the county waste district to see if there are resources for corporate recycling programs.

Cline requested and received a grant to begin the highly successful program at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It started when the 40,000-plus membership filled up the botanical garden’s parking lot with pots they wanted to recycle from planting their gardens. It snowballed to include retail garden centers, and now includes greenhouse growers, as well.

“What I’m trying to do is show everybody by example and show how it’s going to work,” he says, explaining that he now sends out trailers to garden centers to put in the parking lot for customers. The customers toss the right pots into the right container on the trailer, and when it’s full, the retailer brings it back to the botanical garden for unloading. He’s also had retailers collect pots from customers all summer and bring them in a semi to unload at the botanical gardens.

He adds the program is great for retailers, not only because they are helping the environment, but it’s just good business. “They see the environmental interest and excitement, but in a business sense it’s bringing people back into our parking lot and bringing money back in,” Cline says.

With the current green movement going on in this country, that can mean a different kind of green for retailers and growers.

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...

November 26, 2015

2015 Metrolina Greenhouses (Huntersville, NC) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
Yoshimi And Grace Shibata

November 26, 2015

American Floral Endowment Establishes Fund To Honor Legacy Of Yoshimi Shibata

Yoshimi “Shimi” Shibata, a flower grower and wholesale florist, passed away in October at the age of 100.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac' (2015 Texas A&M University Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 Texas A&M University (Overton, Texas) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, Texas.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 20, 2015

Technology Improves Orchid Production At Green Circle G…

Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, has a commitment to using production practices that are efficient and sustainable. The operation has been growing Orchids for nine years, and is entering its second full year with its current system, which entails three camera grades. “The camera grading — first at production into a 5-inch pot, then 12 weeks later and a final grade after the stem and buds have developed — is raising our overall quality,” says Wesley Van Wingerden, director of growing for Green Circle Growers. Greenhouse Grower visited the operation to take a tour of its facilities and learn more about its Orchid production. Read on for more details about the process. The first of the camera grades is incorporated into the transplant process, which involves placing the Orchids from a community tray into 5-inch pots. The plants are separated into three sizes with the smallest returning to the […]

Read More

September 15, 2015

Young Plant Growers Weigh In On Crop Gains, Sales Trend…

Almost 100 young plant producers participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Young Plant Grower Survey, which asked growers questions abot crop categories, sales, order fulfillment and more.

Read More
Top20YPGrowers feature image

September 15, 2015

The State Of The 2015 Young Plant Market

Young plant growers in North America are changing their strategies to stay competitive in today’s market. Here is how 2015 shapes up in trends and statistics.

Read More
Vivero International_Endisch

September 8, 2015

Vivero Internacional Continues To Expand Unrooted Cutti…

The tenth largest cuttings farm in the world, Vivero Internacional was founded in 1991 and began exporting unrooted cuttings in 1993. Based in Tepoztlan, Morelos, just outside of Mexico City, Mexico, the operation opened with 2 hectares or 5 acres. With time and new customers, the farm has experienced rapid growth, now spanning 40 hectares or 99 acres, says Vivero’s Dennis Hitzigrath. “The first 10 years, production was doubling every season,” Hitzigrath says. “In the last three years, it’s been about 20 percent.”     The independent operation grows 100 million cuttings annually for several breeders, serving the North American market. Hitzigrath says consolidation among breeders has brought more of a focus on Vivero Internacional from third-party breeders in recent years. This growing interest is spurring even more growth. “We are planning for a minimum growth of 20 percent,” Hitzigrath says. “We are adding more production space and hope to be […]

Read More

August 19, 2015

Greenhouse Growing Recommendations For Lobularia

Modern-day Lobularias are garden classics with good vigor and long bloom times. These growing recommendations will help keep your crop in prime condition.

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More

June 16, 2015

The Butterfly Effect: Insect’s Wings Key To Azalea Poll…

A researcher from North Carolina State University (NC State) has found that in the case of the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), all pollinators are not created equal. In fact, due to the flower’s unique reproductive structure, butterflies — and specifically, their wings — are the key to pollination. The flame azalea is commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains, ranging from as far north as New York to Georgia in the south. Like most azaleas, the flowers are large, and have an unusual structure: both the anther (male) and stigma (female) parts are very elongated and separated from one another. NC State biologist Mary Jane Epps was interested in how the azalea’s flower structure affected its pollination. “In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator — usually an insect — has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, […]

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 24, 2014

GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile &…

The social garden app GrowIt! takes the Gold Winner award at the design100 2014 Mobile & App Design Awards.

Read More

November 10, 2014

The Perennial Farm Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The Perennial Farm joins the HGTV HOME Plant Collection growers' network for 2015.

Read More

November 4, 2014

AmericanHort Publishes Revised American Standard For Nu…

AmericanHort announces the revised American Standard for Nursery Stock (ANSI Z60.1) is now available for industry use. The Standard reflects the consensus of the industry regarding how nursery stock — living plants other than annuals — should be specified and sold within the trade.

Read More

September 26, 2014

Master The Art Of Watering

Watering is elemental to healthy plants, but one of the hardest concepts for new employees to master in the greenhouse. Recommend these tips to start them off right.

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