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Use alternatives to plastic pots for houseplants

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Whether plants are bought new, grown from seed, or re-potted in alternatives to plastic pots, there will be less plastic in the waste stream when they have to be re-potted, which is especially important since most states don't accept plastic plant pots in their recycling programs.

Find it! Non-plastic planter options

Using alternatives to plastic pots helps you go green because...

  • Recycling is good, but not using plastic to begin with is better—recycling still uses energy.
  • Plastics are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.
  • Plastics release toxic chemicals and take years to disintegrate in landfills.

Additional benefits:

  • Plants tolerate plastics, but it's not the healthiest environment for them.
  • Any type of pot is more attractive than plastic, and matches a houseplant better.
  • Terra cotta, ceramic, and steel pots are easy to clean without any harsh chemicals and last for a very long time.

Avoiding plastics avoids a number of environmental problems: Plastics are made of petroleum, a non-renewable resource that contributes to the depletion of fossil fuels. The US is the world's second largest oil extractor, but possesses just 4 percent of the world's oil reserves.[1] The plastic manufacturing process causes pollution and increases the risk of oil spills.

According to a 1996 Berkeley Plastics Task Force report, the plastic industry contributed 14 percent of the most toxic industrial releases, including styrene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone, nitrous oxides, methanol, and ethylene oxide. PVC plastics can release dioxins, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Additionally, vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen.[1] When they end up as trash in landfills, PVC plastics stay there for up to 700 years before beginning to decompose.[2]

Alternatives to plastic pots

The way plants are contained is being rethought today, so there are many options other than plastic—containers made from recycled paper, straw, grain hulls, or other fibers; plant “walls” made with textiles that create an entire environment out of houseplants, which also purify indoor air; plant stands made from recyclable stainless steel or aluminum; traditional terra cotta or ceramic pots in contemporary designs.

Still, plastic is prevalent enough in gardening materials that it may be hard to avoid when buying houseplants at stores. However, more plants are available in recycled plastic pots, and nurseries are starting to use fiber pots. Here are measures you can take to make plastic pots more environmentally-sound:

  • Most plastic containers have a number on the bottom showing their grade, which indicates how pure they are in terms of recycling. Look for #2, #4, or #5. Avoid #1 and PVC plastics.
  • When buying flats of flowers to take home to plant, ask about bringing the plastic containers they often come in back to be reused.

External links

  • HGTV - Totally Terra cotta: Article on today’s range of terra cotta pots.
  • Teracrea Design Group: Dedicated to rethinking plant pots, with the “air plant” that hangs suspended and lives off moisture and dust; pots that stack to become partial walls; pots with lit perimeters that double as lamps.