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May 2021

Grey is the New Black

For many years plants have been produced in plastic pots of various sizes to fit different needs and budgets.

They were mostly made from recycled polypropylene - often waste products from the automotive industry.

The ones we used were durable, fitted our potting machines, were frost resistant and tough enough to withstand everything our logistics process could throw at them.

But there was a problem. They were difficult to recycle for the end user.

We’re often asked if we can reuse them, but for many reasons this isn’t practical.


Our first consideration is biosecurity; we know that many sites have plants and pots from several different suppliers and even countries, but the empty pots are often mixed up, which for us is a problem.

We would need to use thousands of litres of water plus heat, chemicals and other resources to be able to wash and dry the pots ready for re-use. We’d also have to discard cracked or damaged pots, and only certain pots will fit and run smoothly through our machines.

The reason they cannot be recycled at municipal waste recycling centres is that the sorting machinery in the UK is fitted with PIR sensors that don’t recognise the carbon black pigment in the plastic.


One solution is to use pots of a lighter colour, in our case grey. For several months now we have been restocking with grey pots which can easily be recycled by the end user - and we think look rather good too.

We will also soon be taking delivery of a waste plastic compactor with a compaction force of 65-tonne, which will enable us to offer a recycling service for used pots; more news when this becomes available.

But we are making other changes that will help with our journey towards becoming carbon neutral - smaller pot sizes, but the same size plants.

10 litre plants will be supplied in 7.5 litre pots, and 20 litre plants will be supplied in 15 litres.

This will reduce the amounts of plastic and planting medium we consume without affecting the quality of the plant. There will be less weight, so we will get more on our lorries, increasing fuel efficiency.

When it comes to reducing our impact on the planet, there are no grey areas at Palmstead…