Every year, millions of pounds of agricultural plastics such as flower and vegetable containers make their way to landfills, and only a handful of recycling centers in Virginia collect garden pots. Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Green Industry Council hope to buck this trend by bringing a successful garden container recycling program in Richmond to the rest of the state.
The program, Virginia Gardeners Recycle, expands on a pilot project last summer in which project partners recycled more than 50 pallets — or 7,500 pounds — of plastic nursery and garden containers in the Richmond area. Schools, community colleges, community gardening groups, and area businesses removed several additional pallets of collected materials for reuse. Only four Richmond-area garden centers participated in 2010.
Project organizers expect the statewide initiative to reach a wider audience and to have a greater environmental impact than last year.
“We are identifying additional garden centers, nursery and greenhouse retailers, and even landscapers who are willing to collect and sort pallets of your nursery and garden containers,” said Joyce Latimer, Extension greenhouse crops specialist and professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech. “We also have the Extension Master Gardener volunteer educators who promote container recycling to consumers, educate those consumers on how to prepare and sort their containers for recycling, and in some cases, assist garden centers with collection and sorting.”
The three major horticultural suppliers in Virginia — Griffin Greenhouse & Nursery Supplies in Richmond, Wetsel in Harrisonburg, and Maryland Plants & Supplies in Baltimore — will assist participating garden centers, growers, and landscapers in the recycling effort.
According to Latimer, homeowners and growers can prevent recyclable waste from ending up in landfills by returning plastic pots to a recycling collection drop-off location. She offered the following recommendations to help with the process:
- Knock all loose soil from the plastic containers.
- Remove all metal wire from hanging planters.
- Stack similar containers and group common resin codes (the number on the bottom of the pot).
- Return containers to the garden center and add them to the appropriate pallet or bin for that type of plastic.
- Only deliver pots during normal business hours.
“Together we can make recycling work for you and the garden center,” Latimer said. “Remember, Virginia Gardeners Recycle is for collection of plastic gardening pots and flats only. No other plastics can be accepted.”
Project organizers will donate any funds received for the recycled plastics to the Virginia Master Gardeners Association’s State Master Gardener Coordinator endowment fund.
A complete list of participating garden centers, retailers, and commercial landscapers is available on the Virginia Gardeners Recycle website. Others may register by contacting Joyce Latimer at 540-231-7906.
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