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Toss your pots: Recycling drive helps dispose of plant containers

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/21/2021 9:51:22 PM
Modified: 8/21/2021 9:51:32 PM

LEBANON — While gardening makes life a little greener, it’s not always the greenest hobby. Plastic plant pots — the black plastic type used with plants sold at most gardening centers — can be tough to recycle. But it’s a little easier when you know where to look.

Residents will be able to recycle their plastic pots at Gardener’s Supply in Lebanon during collection drives on Aug. 28 and Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Home Depot also offers an option for these hard-to-recycle plastics at its store in West Lebanon.

“We now have more of a local opportunity for people to recycle,” said Cindy Heath, an Upper Valley landscaper who helped organize the drive. “I work in the landscape industry, so I generate a lot of plastic pots from the garden work I do from designing and installing plants all summer long.”

She said she used to drive to Deerfield, N.H., to recycle her plastic pots.

Black flower pots in particular can be difficult for recycling facilities to process. Shannon Choquette, the outreach coordinator with the Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District, told the Valley News earlier this month that they absorb pesticides and other chemicals that can corrupt the recycling stream. Normally, they head to a landfill.

Gardeners will be able to drop off No. 2, No. 5 and No. 6 plastic pots of any color.

Pots collected at the drive, or at the ongoing recycling site at Home Depot, go back to Michigan-based East Jordan Plastics, one of the largest manufacturers of plastic pots in the country.

Nathan Diller, who manages recycling at East Jordan Plastics, said the company worked with European manufacturers to design its recycling process leading up to its launch in 2009. The program began small, but now East Jordan recycles over 20 million pounds of horticultural containers a year.

“We’re not making food-grade or medical-grade packaging,” Diller said. “We don’t need virgin plastic.”

Commercial nurseries supplied by East Jordan Plastics reuse plastic pots until they begin to break down. Then East Jordan back-hauls them to its recycling facility in South Haven, Mich.

East Jordan operates a “closed-loop” recycling process, pelletizing the horticultural containers and using the pellets to make fresh pots.

East Jordan picks up horticultural containers only when there are enough to fill the bed of a large truck. By holding collection drives a few times a year, a small-scale nursery can collect enough to merit a haul. The drive itself took months to get off the ground.

“Manpower is probably one of the larger challenges for us. It’s labor-intense,” said Melissa Longacre, a store manager at Gardener’s Supply. “The plastic needs to be sorted and stacked. Getting it sorted and packaged on pallets is a big task.”

Volunteers will help organize the plastic pots at the drive.

“Individuals can think creatively about recycling, about everything that they use even if it’s not available to dispose of at their local recycling center,” Heath said. “There are always ways to reduce impact on local landfill and reduce waste.”

Here are some other Upper Valley businesses that offer residents opportunities to recycle hard-to-dispose-of items. Pat McGovern and Roger Barraby compiled this list:

Best Buy: Used electronics.

Hannaford Supermarket: Plastic bags and film (so long as it doesn’t crackle).

Home Depot: Rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, used holiday lights, lead acid battery cores, and plant pots.

LISTEN and Salvation Army stores: Textiles, clothes, household goods, furniture, sports equipment.

Omer & Bob’s and Stateline Sports: Used athletic shoes.

UPS Store, West Lebanon: Bubble wrap.

West Lebanon Feed & Supply: Pet food bags.

White River Subaru: Snack packaging, disposable coffee items.

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at cpotter@vnews.com or 603-727- 3242.




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