Thus far, the vast majority of the recent campaigning around plastic, especially single use plastic, has focused on kitchen and bathroom use within people’s homes, with a real focus on personal responsibility and awareness. Of course, this is excellent and seems to be getting a lot of traction, and whilst there might be a cynical thought or two when we see celebrities becoming involved, in essence, anything that supports less plastic and a healthier planet must be applauded.
But what does all of this mean for those of us who grow food? What are the plastic free alternatives available and how do we go about having a ‘plastic neutral garden’ – an interesting idea and one that is worth looking into.
The most important thing to remember is that Incredible Edible is all about finding local solutions to our global challenges. Whilst that means every group is probably pondering the big questions, each may find a different solution to them – and in ways that works for them and their community. We hope they’ll share their solutions with us but in the meantime here are some of our thoughts.
Stand in any large garden centre and look around you. The amount of plastic is astonishing and often completely unnecessary. From pots to labels, there’s a sea of the stuff that’s quite hard to wade your way through. What’s single use? What can be used over and over? And if you’re fairly new to gardening, how do you know what you need, and more importantly what you don’t? It seems like a maze you might never get find your way through but in fact there are lots of solutions.
Tools, pots, labels, seeds and compost can all add to the plastic heap but of course there are alternatives, many of which look to reuse rather than recycle, and so are far more sustainable in the long run. For example, repurposing old tools could give a volunteer a new project to work on, and calling out for old tools is usually successful using social media and local networks. When buying tools it’s important to look for those made with metal and wood rather than plastic and whilst they are often more expensive, they are also generally far longer-lasting.
Compost is another difficult conversation, as it inevitably comes in plastic but, if you make as much as possible and take advantage of large scale deliveries, it’s possible to get around this issue. The bags are often reusable, for example to grow potatoes in, or they can be used as bags to transport green waste to compost sites. Also, labels will last for years if you scrub them with a wire brush once you no longer need them in situ.
Of course, for most, the biggest plastic issue is plant pots. Recently there has been a lot of work to produce a different coloured pot that is recyclable. Despite this, we understand that various authorities are not recycling them and they are heading to landfill or for anaerobic digestion. This is where the concept of circular economies comes in. Most plant pots will last for years and so the simple answer is to recycle them in your own communities until a better centralised alternative can be found.
Whatever you choose to do, the most important thing is that there is sustainable change and that those tales of change are shared, inspiring and supporting others to do the same. What we so desperately need is leadership in these matters and pressure on politics to create new legislation which ensures that change happens. So, as well as telling that story in your network, share it with your local councillors, MP’s and other leaders, asking them to support the change and look at legislation which supports the planet and in turn, creates kindness across the country.