The licensed horticulture firms and plastic waste recycling in Georgia


Licensed horticultural firms have increased their recycling of selected plastic waste since the 2013 survey. However, sorting and storing plastic waste until pickup continue to be viewed as constraints to recycling. Additionally, cleaning used plastic from soil residue is a major constraint and if firms would receive some benefits for those efforts, the rate of recycling plastic waste in the horticultural industry would increase.


Licensed horticultural firms generate plastic waste during production and installation of plants in landscapes across Georgia. The current behavior and constraints to plastic recycling need to be updated since a similar study was conducted in 2013 (though on a different and smaller sample of environmental horticulture firms, members of the Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA)). The recent decrease in oil prices led to a contraction for recycled oil-derived products including polymers. 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. There is a need for information about the industry following the recent oil price changes and reaching energy self-sufficiency in the United States.


A survey of licensed horticulture firms was undertaken between November 2018 and April 2019 using a list provided by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. A total of 299 firms responded (14% response rate). A comparison to information about the landscaping service sector in Georgia in 2012 provided by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that our survey encompassed firms from a larger number of counties within and outside the MSA and provided details about the business scope of firms as well as wage rates.


Results provide new and updated information about the horticulture industry regarding constraints to plastic waste recycling. The results show that 67% 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, 59% and 56%, respectively, 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% of responding firms and nearly one half felt the company should be paid for that effort. Additionally, 67% of surveyed firms thought they should not be charged for plastic waste pickup that is later sold by the recycling firm.

State Issue

Sustainability, Conservation, & the Environment


  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: State
  • County: Spalding
  • Location: Georgia Station, Griffin
  • Program Areas:
    • Agriculture & Natural Resources


    Florkowski, Wojciech J.
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