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Five ways gardeners can help with the war on plastic

PUBLISHED: 13:00 02 March 2019

A plant growing out of a recycled plastic bottle Picture: Thinkstock/PA

A plant growing out of a recycled plastic bottle Picture: Thinkstock/PA

From reusing pots to getting creative, there's lots green-fingered types can do to help cut plastic waste.

Schoolchildren planting in recycled containers  Picture: Thinkstock/PASchoolchildren planting in recycled containers Picture: Thinkstock/PA

As the war on plastic continues, there’s much you can do in your garden to help make a difference. And many of these planet-protecting ideas are demonstrated in this year’s RHS Britain in Bloom competition, where community gardeners put their horticultural skills, community spirit and green credentials to the test.

These green-fingered gangs go some way to spread the word locally about how to cut down on waste, running beach clean-ups or coming up with creative ways to re-use plastic.

Darren Share, chairman of the Britain in Bloom judging panel, says: “Britain in Bloom isn’t just about spectacular floral displays and making our villages, towns and cities beautiful to live in and visit. Many of this year’s finalists are on the frontline of tackling some of the UK’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, plastic waste on beaches, and declining pollinator populations.”

So, how can gardeners help to wage war on plastic with a recycling revolution?

Plant pots being washed for reuse  Picture: Thinkstock/PAPlant pots being washed for reuse Picture: Thinkstock/PA

1. Get creative

In the UK, we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day – but with a bit of imagination, they could find a home in your garden landscaping and help cut down on waste sent to landfill. Britain in Bloom competitor Barnoldswick in Lancashire re-purposed two-litre fizzy drink bottles to create a spectacular wall of pollinator-friendly planting for bees, by turning the bottles on their side, cutting out an opening and filling with compost and plants such as nasturtiums, aubretia and lobelia. When using plastic bottles or other containers for growing, don’t forget to add a few drainage holes to let air get to the plants’ roots and avoid waterlogging.

2. Turn bottles into cloches

Discarded plastic drink bottles also make great cloches, which act as mini-greenhouses to protect tender plants from the cold and deter pests such as rabbits, and even urban deer, from nibbling at young seedlings. Simply cut the top off the bottle and place over the plant.

A bird feeder made out of a recycled tyre and recycled plastic bottles Picture: Thinkstock/PAA bird feeder made out of a recycled tyre and recycled plastic bottles Picture: Thinkstock/PA

3. Reuse pots

Plants bought from garden centres are often supplied in plastic pots, although alternative materials such as coir, paper or bamboo are increasingly available. Consider re-using these for seed sowing and re-potting, rather than buying new. Just rinse out with warm water and detergent before using again, to kill off any diseases. Wicor Primary School in Hampshire – a school gardening superstar – uses mushroom and tomato supermarket containers as seed trays, airtight Christmas chocolate containers to store seeds and small plastic bottles as cane toppers.

4. Pass things on

Think about setting up a plant pot recycling point on an allotment or other community hub, where gardeners and schools can drop off any unwanted pots for others to pick up and recycle.

5. Make it fun

Follow the lead of Britain in Bloomers St Helier in Jersey, which gets local green-fingered school children involved in transforming rubbish into inventive floral displays, using materials such as broken wheelie bins, to complement their plantings. This year, schools will be creating their displays from washed-up plastic collected from the community’s beach clean-ups.

For more information about the RHS’ work in communities, including Britain in Bloom and the RHS Campaign for School Gardening, visit the RHS website.

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