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Gardening: Save the planet and reduce the plastic pots in your garden

Stem the tide of gardening plastic by replacing your plastic pots and seed trays with eco-friendly alternatives

Recycling machines don't recognise any plastic which contains a carbon-black pigment

AS the scourge of plastic continues within the gardening industry, with an estimated 500 million black plastic plant pots in use in the UK each year, surely the least we can do is seek eco-friendly alternatives in which to raise our seedlings. Here are four ways you can make your plant pots greener.

1. Change colour: Part of the problem with black plastic pots is that recycling machines don't recognise any plastic which contains a carbon-black pigment. This means that the black plastic pot can't be recycled through kerbside collections, although some garden centres offer take-back schemes. The response from the horticultural industry last year was to bring in taupe pots, which are made from recycled polypropylene, are 100 per cent recyclable and are suitable for kerbside collection as they are recognised by recycling machines. They have also brought in other colours which are, most importantly, non-black. Millions have become available this year so if you are in a garden centre, opt for the plants in a pot colour other than black.

2. Go for home-made: Ever thought of raising seedlings in the tubes of empty toilet rolls? It will be cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Place as many as you need on an oven tray rather than a plastic seed tray, fill them with compost and away you go. Alternatively, cut an orange or lemon in half, scoop out the contents leaving the skin, and use that to sow your seeds.

3. Consider other biodegradable products: Different materials such as bamboo and coir are becoming more widely available in garden centres and online. Bamboo seed trays and pots should last at least a couple of years before they can just go on the compost heap. Sarah Raven (sarahraven.com) offers a new range of pots and saucers made from bamboo and rice husk (£6.99 for five pots, £4.99 for five saucers).

Biodegradable pots made from wood fibre or coir (coconut husk), rice husks and even seaweed, provide a further option, with the added benefit of being made from what would otherwise be a waste material. Try the Vipot range, available at The Garden Superstore

(thegardensuperstore.co.uk) or on Amazon (amazon.co.uk). If you're opting for a fibre, make sure it's peat-free. It will tell you on the label.

Some biodegradable pots will just last a season and can be planted straight into the soil, where they will break down and therefore there is no root disturbance for the seedling. Others last a few years before they can be disposed of to degrade. The clue will largely be in the price.

4. Make changes with your purse: BBC Gardeners' World Magazine research shows that more than 75 per cent of the buying public would (within reason) pay extra towards making plant pots and plastics in horticulture generally more recyclable. Surely, if gardeners refuse to buy black plastic pots and trays – and at least re-use the ones they already have – then sooner or later the gardening industry will respond to their environmentally-conscious customers.

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