With spring planting well underway, gardeners across the country are up to their elbows in dirt and compost, putting beautiful flowers and healthy veggies in the ground. For many, the annoying side effect of this very green activity is all the plastic pots left over at the end of the process. Nursery pots are typically made with #5, #6 or #7 plastics, which are difficult or sometimes impossible to recycle. A Seattle-area company is doing what it can to change that. The McConkey Company, which manufactures and distributes products for plant nurseries, recently released the rEarth line of flowerpots, which are made entirely from recycled water bottles. Most plastic water bottles are made with #1 plastic, known as PET or PETE, which is quite recyclable. But the remanufacturing process required to turn PETE back into new products is typically done overseas.
rEarth recycled flower pots
McConkey's rEarth recycled plastic flower pots
“We have these water bottles that Americans recycle, but then they’re put on an ocean container to China, where they turn it into consumer products,” Stina McConkey, McConkey Company’s COO, said in a press release. “So we asked ourselves, can we keep this valuable material at home — and keep jobs in the US by turning them into flower pots? After working with local recyclers, it turns out we could.” The company also hopes its product will spur awareness about the wastefulness of single-use plastic bottles and encourage conversations about recycling. Fifty-four percent of Americans drink bottled water regularly, according to McConkey, but only about one-quarter of those bottles are recycled. An estimated 60 million water bottles are thrown away every single day. rEarth pots are easy to recycle; once you’re through with them you can chuck them in your curbside bin (or, if your municipality does not accept #1 plastic, you can take them to a recycling center with all your other plastics). During the first year of manufacturing, the company diverted 72 million plastic water bottles. The pots come in eight different sizes, including the six-packs that are popular for vegetables starts and small flowering plants. rEarth has been successful enough that the McConkey Company is planning to add additional sizes to the line later this year. Consumers will find rEarth pots holding plants from growers such as Colorama, SummerWinds Nursery and Do Right’s Plant Growers in California. They are available for sale (in bulk quantities only) on the company’s website. Want to see them in your area? Encourage your favorite nursery to check them out.