Recycling Plastic Waste in the Green Industry

Licensed horticultural firms generate plastic waste during production and installation of plants in landscapes across Georgia. Recycled plastic pots, trays, liners, multipacks, greenhouse covers, and other plastic materials are ground into flakes and sold to manufacturers of various plastic products or products using plastic as an ingredient. Low oil prices led to a decrease in demand for recycled plastics and some counties in Georgia face increased costs for handling plastic waste. Although the stream of plastic waste originating in horticulture is dwarfed by the consumer-generated volume of used plastic, increased recycling on the part of growers and landscapers will make a meaningful contribution to save space in landfills and reduce the environmental burden of disposing of plastics, including the risk of soil and water pollution. UGA agricultural and applied economists surveyed licensed horticultural firms on their recycling practices. Results provide new and updated information about the horticulture industry regarding constraints to plastic waste recycling. The results show that 67 percent of responding firms recycled at least one-half of the plastic containers they used suggesting an increase in recycling since a similar survey was conducted in 2013. The majority of firms agreed that sorting plastic waste and storing the recycled plastic waste between pickups constrained participation in recycling. Cleaning used plastic before recycling was also viewed as a limitation by 69 percent of responding firms and nearly one half felt the company should be paid for that effort. Additionally, 67 percent of surveyed firms thought they should not be charged for plastic waste pickup that is later sold by the recycling firm.