September 15, 2008

Plastics recycling was the agenda for a special meeting held at the LO office on August 6. Representatives from the garden centre and grower sectors, as well as LO and CNLA staff, met with Ivan Vander Deen of ITML/Myers Lawn and Garden to discuss a potential partnership and preliminary logistics in a national horticultural plastic recycling initiative.

The group received a status report from Landscape Ontario’s Lorraine Ivanoff on a week-long used plastic collection pilot project held at LO in June. Almost 4,000 pounds of plastic garden pots, trays, tags and greenhouse poly were collected. The project’s recycling partner did not charge LO for the pick-up, nor did it pay for the collected plastic, valued at approximately $250. The group felt this indicates any plastic recycling initiative is unlikely to make money, but should help garden centres and growers offset the costs of sending plastics to the landfill, while helping “green” the planet.

The group observed a video produced by Myers Lawn and Garden that explained the company’s recycling activities. Ivan explained that Myers — through the acquisition of ITML and Dekka Resins — started recycling in 1978, and has been in the recycling business since mid-1980s with the construction of its plant, Dekka Resins. Currently about 68 per cent of the plastic it uses is from recycled material.

In 2007, Myers Industries’ recycling efforts prevented 130 million pounds of lawn and garden waste from entering landfills. By recycling pots, Meyers saves 740,000 barrels of oil and 1.5 million cubic yards of landfill space annually. Ivan explained that Myers recycles only pots and trays carrying the #5 polypropylene, #2 polyethylene and #6 polystyrene symbols.

Currently, Myers Lawn and Garden can’t get enough used plastic to recycle. For now, the biggest competitor for used plastic is China. Myers, alone, needs 80,000 pounds of recycled material a week to fulfill its needs.

Landscape Ontario and CNLA are looking to partner with Myers and other recycling companies to help create a nationwide post-consumer plastics recycling program. JVK is partnering with Myers to set up several recycling centres across the country, but to be effective, there must be a series of centres that will help collect and bale the product around the country. The ideal partners are retail garden centres and growers with the ability to collect the pots, trays and tags directly from consumers.

To make shipping efficient, a truck would need to contain compacted bales of plastic weighing 600 pounds each, meaning a truckload can carry 30,000 pounds of used plastic. For a plastic program to work, the group feels everybody has to win — growers, consumers, retailers, distributors and pot manufacturers.

LO is investigating funding for recycling programs. Watch for further information on how you can recycle your used horticultural plastic at Garden Expo, October 21 – 22, and in upcoming issues of Horticulture Review.

Caption: Just some of the many plastic items collected during a pilot project at Landscape Ontario.