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Ask City Hall: Can I recycle plastic gardening containers?

Plastic gardening packaging is accepted in New West recycling bins
Gardening trays - Getty
Can plastic gardening trays be recycled?

Now that the weather is warning up a bit, many folks are heading out into the garden – and to gardening stores.

That’s prompted a query from Audrey Barnes, a longtime member of the New Westminster Horticultural Society, who has been taking note of the city’s request for residents to avoid contaminating the recycling stream by improperly disposing of items that shouldn’t be recycled.

“Plant pots – which ones are recyclable, which ones are not? What about these black trays?” she said. “People ask me and I say, ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t know who to inquire to it about.”

Barnes said it would be very helpful for local gardeners to know how they should be disposing of the various gardening containers their plants come in when purchased from gardening centres and other stores, so they can avoid contaminating the recycling stream. She’s gathered up many pots in preparation for the New Westminster Horticultural Society’s annual plant sale.

“I collect the pots here. There is a huge mish-mash of stuff. I don’t know how to get rid of some of it. I am sure everybody else is guessing too, and I am sure there is a lot of contamination into the recycling from the pots that should not be recycled,” she told the Record. “This is the time of year to get the word out. This is the time when everybody is buying all these things in pots.”

For this instalment of Ask City Hall, we took Barnes’ question to Kristian Davis, superintendent of the city’s solid waste and recycling branch.

Question: What do I do with the plastic plant containers I get when buying gardening supplies?

Answer: As per Recycle BC, all plastic garden pots and trays for bedding plants, seedlings, vegetable plants, etc. are acceptable for recycling in curbside or multifamily collection carts, Davis said.

“If you think about a plastic plant pot as a package, the city accepts all rigid plastic packaging along with mixed paper materials and other containers,” he said in an email to the Record. “Plastic plant pots and trays are basically packaging for your plants for you to bring them home from a nursery. Just be sure to ensure they’re free of soil before putting them into the recycling bin. Any soft plastic overwrap used to package plants can also be recycled, but only at a drop-off depot, and must be free of soil too.”

Some plant containers, however, are not recyclable.

“The city does not accept clay, glass, or ceramics plant pots or containers. Same goes for any other plastic decorative plant pots, containers, or vases, they are not recyclable,” Davis said. “These are all examples of products purchased to display your plants. Remember, packaging is generally recyclable and products are not.

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