My recent column in the Seattle Times on how nurseries are surviving these days ended with a couple of questions. "But why isn't our Northwest industry out front on eco-gardening and sustainability? Could we replace those landfill-bound black plastic pots with biodegradable containers?"
Dick Mathes of Custom Bioplastics in Burlington responded with this very interesting email....... maybe we customers need to let retailers and nurseries know that we want to buy plants in something besides those black plastic pots...how frustrating that Dick got zero response to his innovative, environmentally sound product....well, read on...
"I always read your Natural Gardener column in Pacific Magazine. In the last issue you talked about sustainability in the nursery/gardening industry. We are a small company in the Skagit Valley and this is an issue that we have been working on for some time now. We make plastic. To pay the bills we make custom messaged dog waste pick up bags from recycled plastic resin. www.bio-buddy.com
Our passion though is biodegradable/compostable plastics.
In your article you mentioned replacing the black pots with a biodegradable container. We tried. Four years ago, we created a compostable plant bag. Along with this we created a jig that allowed the bags to be used in the automatic dirt filling machines. It was our thought that the tomato retail market would be a natural entry point….few months in the greenhouse and then a short time out in retail. The consumer could take the “bag” home, cut a few holes, and plant the plant and bag. We showed the idea at the NW Horticulture tradeshow in Portland. It was met with a total lack of interest. We were told that anything forced the grower or the retailer to modify their usual pattern in anyway would not be accepted by the industry.
Since that time we have continued the biodegradable work but have been concentrating on a biodegradable plastic mulch film. The WSU research station in the Valley has just concluded a three year USDA grant to study biodegradable mulches. We served as an industry advisor. Our involvement allowed us to observe the testing of the products currently available in the market place. The main thing we learned was they do not work as promised. Because of our involvement with a number of biodegradable film resin companies and their products, I was able to determine which of the components were causing the materials not to biodegrade as promised. From this we developed our own resin formula. Our film was tested in a separate study. It worked. More of the story is at our websitewww.biodegradableplasticmulchfilm.com . The website is funky. It is just intended to see what level of interest is out there. We are getting interest.
I just wanted to let you know that there are some of us out there in the industry that agree with you, and are trying to offer changes. If you are ever in the Skagit and would like to see what we are doing, you would be very welcome.
Custom Bioplastics/Crown Films
527 N Hill Blvd
Burlington, Wa. 98233