HTA Shares UK Plant Pot Recycling Solution with Global Ornamentals Industry

Sharing the UK growers’ plant pot recycling solution with delegates from around the world, HTA’s Martin Simmons gave a presentation on the taupe pot at the International Association of Horticultural Producers’ (AIPH) Sustainability Conference in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on 2nd April 2019.

Martin joined the AIPH speaker programme which included other industry experts, academics, researchers, manufacturers and wholesalers to discuss the complex issue of plastics used in the ornamental horticulture industry. The conference entitled ‘Plastics in Ornamental Horticulture – How to Create a Sustainable Supply Chain’ facilitated a broad and honest discussion of the impact of plastics on people and the planet and the need for collaborative industry solutions.

Martin presented how the HTA and UK growers have been working in such a way. The UK growers’ initiative, which was coordinated by HTA and formed a nursery working group at the HTA National Plant Show 2018, united ten leading UK growers to seek solutions to the problem of carbon black pigment plant pot waste. These black pots cannot be recycled through current UK kerbside recycling facilities as they absorb light and become undetectable to infrared sensors which sort plastic for recycling.

The initiative explored kerbside recycling solutions but these were confounded by the vast range of recycling processes around the UK – over 400 different and independent recycling systems. To explore other avenues the group approached manufacturers to develop a recyclable pot to replace the carbon black pigment pot. Five leading pot manufacturers: Popplemann TEKU, Modiform, Desch, Soparco and Aeroplas were invited to the group to develop solutions.  The result of this design, development and selection process was the new Aeroplas ‘taupe pot’, a pale, natural coloured (carbon black pigment-free) polypropylene pot which can be recycled and has greater aesthetic quality than a black pot. The taupe pot can be produced in a range of sizes from 9cm – 2 litre and is made from 98% post-consumer UK sourced waste which can go back into the recycling system creating a circular economy. The pot can be produced by any manufacturer using the same colour and constituents.  By adopting the use of taupe pots, garden centres and retailers can provide plastic to consumers which can be processed by local authority recycling facilities around the UK.

Quick off the mark to adopt the taupe pot is UK nursery Farplants. Brett Avery of The Farplants Group took to the conference stage to demonstrate that the nursery has already adopted the taupe pot for 10% of its plants in 2018 and is currently preparing to use 100% taupe pots in 2020.

The overwhelming message from all speakers of the AIPH Sustainability Conference was the importance of a collaborative response to the industry’s need to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. The issues are complex and often regional but working in collaboration across the entire supply chain can establish effective solutions and secure a sustainable industry.

From a variety of perspectives, speakers presented research and evidence of the solid business case for sustainability.  Investing in sustainable products and processes generates lower carbon footprint, equating to less waste and higher profits. The challenge is to encourage industry and business to believe in the return on sustainable investment (ROSI). HTA were glad to be present at this global gathering to demonstrate how the UK horticulture industry is embracing its commitment to sustainability and working together to develop solutions for a sustainable future.

Martin Simmons and Brett Avery’s presentations are available as video and powerpoint presentations on the AIPH website: HTA is a member of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) based at Horticulture House, Chilton, Oxfordshire.

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