A new book tackles the thorny issue of use of plastics in gardens – the first ever guide showing gardeners a way to cut back on un-recyclable materials.
It plots a path through the confusion, highlighting progress, revealing where problems lie and giving gardeners guidance and a wealth of practical ideas on how to reduce their reliance on plastics.
'Plastic-free Gardening', written by Fiona Thackeray, head of operations with Trellis, Scotland's therapeutic gardening charity, includes tips and techniques on how to reduce or eradicate plastics as well listing stockists and suppliers of products made from alternative materials.
It also provides up-to-date information on which plastics can and can't be recycled and how the gardening industry and local authorities, which handle kerb-side collections, are responding to the challenge.
It's a timely message for anyone who has ditched supermarket shopping bags and faithfully recycles drinks bottles and milk cartons, but who has been overwhelmed by the tide of containers, plant labels, tools and compost sacks that seem to be an inevitable part of gardening.
"These are changing times and progress is being made towards replacing and recycling the plastics involved in gardening, but there is no one, clear answer to the problem," says Fiona.
Plastics have invaded every corner of the garden, and it's not just pots - from the linings of foil seed packets to outdoor clothing, packaging for plant foods and fertilisers and in crop-protection materials such as fleece, cloches and polytunnels - plastics proliferate.
Fiona talked with scientists and leading experts in the field about what's being done to solve the issue and what alternative materials are coming on stream.
“In writing the book I didn't want to make gardeners feel guilty about their choices, but instead give them the best information possible on how they could find alternative ways of avoiding or reducing plastics,” says Fiona.
Her own commitment to reducing plastics was given added impetus in 2014 when, on a beach in São Paulo State in Brazil, she found a loggerhead turtle being pecked by vultures and dying of plastics ingestion.
The power of small steps like replacing plastic plant pots and the disposable cups Trellis uses at to ones without a plastic lining should not be underestimated, Fiona says.
Fiona's tips for reducing plastics in the garden include:
- Switch to pots made from cornstarch, rice husks, bamboo, seaweed or some of the alternative materials that are now becoming available.
- When replacing garden tools choose those with wooden handles.
- Consider switching what you grow to plants and crops that don't need protection from fleece or other plastic products
- Opt for wooden garden furniture and storage, not synthetic alternatives.
- Make your own fertiliser from seaweed, comfrey or nettles.
‘Plastic-free Gardening’ is published on 3 December by Trellis Books, £11.99