Greetings, fellow gardeners of the north. As a Hennepin County Master Gardener, I'm used to fielding questions about gardening. From “does my ash tree have emerald ash borer?” to “why do I never get any tomatoes?”
I’ve been contributing columns, feature articles and photographs to Northern Gardener magazine for about three years now, and jumped at the chance to contribute to this new feature on the blog.
Have a gardening question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each month, I’ll choose a question to answer right here. If I don’t get to your question, come visit a Master Gardener booth at a local farmer’s market or call the Yard & Garden line at (612) 301-7590. We live for this stuff.
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Without further ado, here's our kick-off question for July.
Q: Where can I take my black plastic pots and trays to be recycled?
A: This time of year, I always find myself with a large box of leftover plastic plant pots and trays. What to do with them?
Unfortunately, they can’t be recycled through most cities’ curbside recycling programs, since black plastic is not accepted. The reason? Machines at facilities that accept unsorted recyclables use optical scanning to “look” for plastics, which they fish out of the stream of recyclable materials. As cool as these machines are, they are not (yet) sophisticated enough to “see” black plastic. Therefore, most cities do not accept black plastic for recycling.
So what’s an earth-minded gardener to do?
First, ask yourself whether you can repurpose any of the pots for your own use. If you do any seed starting, sturdier pots can be used several times before their lifespan is up. I’ve been using the same black plastic pots to start seeds for several years now. Just be sure you clean them thoroughly with hot, soapy water with a bit of bleach added to it to kill any pathogens that might be clinging to them.
Once you’ve set aside the ones you can reuse, it’s time to figure out where you can take the rest for recycling.
Home Depot accepts all plastic pots—I called my area’s Home Depot in Richfield to confirm. Lowe’s accepts plastic pots AND trays. The friendly folks at the Lowe’s in Plymouth confirmed. It doesn’t hurt to call first, just to make sure.
Finally, you can also take steps to avoid this problem in the first place by seeking out plants that are started in compostable containers, or save money and avoid black plastic by starting more of your perennials the easy way with winter sowing.
Jennifer Rensenbrink is a University of MN Extension Master Gardener for Hennepin County. She grows native plants, vegetables and fruit in her south Minneapolis yard. You can follow her gardening adventures on Instagram.
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