Tag Archives: Plastic waste

The persistent crisp packet: 23 years in the environment and still going strong

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Last night Karin and I returned from Buxton in the Peak District where we had hired a cottage and assembled most of our kids and their partners for a weekend get together.  During a walk in the surrounding countryside I spotted this crisp packet sticking out of the ground.  From the typography of the logo I could tell it was old and a bit of internet sleuthing suggests that it was from a special limited edition produced to commemorate the UEFA 1996 European Football Championship.  So it’s been hanging around in the environment for about 23 years, hardly decaying, possibly releasing harmful chemicals into the environment.

Needless to say, I took it home and binned it.  But this one crisp packet is a microcosm of an enormous global problem of single-use plastic waste that is not being disposed of properly or recycled.  It’s a particular issue in the developing world where wastes management infrastructure is simply not able to cope with the volume of plastic bags and packaging, as I saw recently on my trip to Nepal:

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This sort of waste is more than just unsightly: it is harming the world’s ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain.  Manufacturers of plastic need to step up and address this issue.  Action is happening as I know from discussions with colleagues such as Prof. Margaret Bates and Dr Terry Tudor who are actively researching, educating and advising in this area.  But I worry that it may be too little and too late.

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Filed under Biodiversity, University of Northampton

What to do with plastic plant labels? Here’s one idea.

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This spring Karin and I are continuing to develop our garden which I have previously talked about in relation to the Big Garden Birdwatch and Renovating a Front Garden, for instance, as well as various posts about the pollinators I’m recording (search the blog for “garden pollinators” and you’ll see what I mean).

The main task over the past couple of weeks has been to demolish the old chicken run and plant it as a mixed border that will give interest all year round.  We’ve put in some plants that have been hanging around in pots for a few years waiting for a space to open up, plus bought clearance-area bulbs and perennials such as crocuses, narcissi, hyacinths and hellebores at knock-down prices (they look a bit scrappy at the moment but will be great next year).  Plus we’ve spent a bit of money on some nice flowering shrubs and small fruit trees.

The plants we’ve bought invariably come in a plastic pot which we re-use for propagating and giving plants away to friends.  However they usually also come with a plastic label that tells us at least the name of the species and variety, plus often cultivation details and a colour image.  The question is: what to do with these labels?  The obvious thing is to leave them on the plant or push them into the ground next to it to remind us what it is.  The problem with this is that (in my experience) the labels never last more than a year or two before the ink fades.  Over time the plastic starts to break down and you end up with fragments of the label in the soil.  There’s a lot of discussion online about how harmful different types of plastic can be, but there’s no doubt that some types can release toxins into the soil.  Regardless, it seems to us a bad idea to allow these plastic labels to disintegrate in the garden.  It also feels like a waste of resources: those labels took oil and energy to produce.

This year the BBC’s Gardeners’ World series is looking at ways to reduce the use of plastic in the garden, which is a good idea and another reason why I love the programme, as I’ve previously written about on the blog.  That got me thinking about the best way to deal with plastic plant labels, what else can you do with them other than leave them in the garden?

I suspect that if we put them out with the weekly plastic recycling they’ll just be landfilled, so that’s not an option.  However, like a lot of gardeners we keep a log book of what we’ve been planting, but we’re a bit lazy about keeping it up to date.  So we’ve taken to slipping those labels between the pages of the log book to remind us of what we have put into the garden.  The book is one of those with an elasticated retainer to keep it closed, so the labels don’t fall out when we move it on and off the shelf.  Hopefully the labels will last for years in there away from damp and light, and be a useful source of information for us in the future.

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If you’ve curious, here’s how that part of the garden looked before we started working on it; everything you see here has been re-used or recycled in one way or another:

20180330_105640.jpg And this is what it looks like now; we still have more plants to add and hopefully the border will fill out come the summer:

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