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Wild Bunch column – Earth Day – gardening and plastics

22nd April is Earth Day, and this year’s focus is plastics. Gardening, even the wildlife-free approach can be plastic heavy if we aren’t careful. Plastics are so convenient and embedded in our daily lives. Plastic pots, trays, mesh, ties, labels, watering cans, wheelbarrows, buckets, plastic spray bottles of all kinds, are just some examples. Plastic has a multitude of uses and is cheap, so weaning ourselves off it, let alone getting to grips with the different sorts and whether they are recyclable or biodegradable, will not be easy but let’s remember that plastic was only invented in the 1950s. Before then, we all gardened without it, so there’s no reason why we can’t again; or at least minimise buying new plastic. 

The simplest way to start is to familiarise yourself with what you can and cannot recycle, what you can reuse and what not to use at all. For example, polystyrene (marked 6 on the triangular label) is one of the most harmful for the environment. Polycarbonate (marked 7 on the triangular label) is believed to be the worst plastic mankind has invented. Avoid both wherever possible. There are many natural, plastic-free alternatives such as coir, bamboo, and cardboard. They might not be as readily available as the plastic, and you may need to do some searching, but remember we choose the world we want to live in with our wallets. The more of the sustainable alternatives we buy, the more popular they become, and as they stop being niche products, they become cheaper. We spend around £7.5 billion each year on our gardens, so use your purse power to support companies and nurseries trying to do the right thing and producing sustainable alternatives. Peer pressure works too. Ask your local garden centres, supermarkets, and DIY chains to reduce their use of gardening plastic and supply more eco-friendly plastic-free alternatives. 

Reuse what you can to minimise new plastics being produced and entering the environment. Egg boxes, used plastic bottles and yogurt pots can all be used as containers. Hunt out discarded clay pots from skips and visit charity shops for gloves, garden tools, old wine boxes, etc. Use old saucers, dishes and plates instead of plastic pot trays. Use flattened cardboard boxes, or old carpets, and rugs instead of plastic to clear the ground and suppress weeds. Chicken wire (large hole is fine) is better and cheaper than plastic mesh for climbing plants. Once it’s up, you can’t see it. Use supermarket bags to make DIY grow bags by adding drainage holes in the bottom filled with home grown compost. Lastly, why not add beautiful copper spray bottles and wonderful vintage clay pots to your Christmas or birthday wish list?

We may never get rid of plastics from our everyday lives, but we can definitely reduce the amount we use, and the possibilities are endless. The photo of a plastic-free potting shed by Ron Porter that accompanies this article proves that it can be done.  

If you would like to join the Wild Bunch to share other ways to encourage wildlife in gardens and local open spaces, receive the newsletter, or suggest topics for the monthly gatherings, just email fromewildbunch@gmail.com. Our next gathering is 1.30pm on 16th May, and some Wild Bunchers will be opening our gardens and showing you round. Please visit https://www.frometowncouncil.gov.uk/our-community/community/wild-bunch or the Frome Wild Bunch Facebook page for more details.  

22 April 2024
Last Updated
19 April 2024
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