What to do with those empty nursery pots.

A sore spot for nurseries taking the lead as centers of sustainable practices is the plastic plant can. As Angela pointed out in my last post many of the plastic cans that plants come in end up in landfills. We have customers ask if we will take the cans back. The problem is there are too many cans. As soon as you tell people to bring the cans back some go through their yard and bring all sorts of different sized cans from many different nurseries. Sometimes they pull in with their truck loaded with hundreds of cans. They assume that we want to recycle them by planting other plants in them. Most small garden centers do not do enough planting to warrant having all these cans. As a result most small nurseries don’t take back the cans.

Monrovia Nursery started a branding program that has included having their name printed right on the can. The quality of Monrovia’s plants is usually very good so they proudly emblazon their name on the side. As far as I can tell they are the only wholesale nursery to do this. It’s a first and I think it is working for them. People are starting to equate the brand with quality and garden success.

Small re-wholesalers and wholesalers often use recycled nursery cans for their plantings. I have started to notice Monrovia cans being used for non-Monrovia plants. Imagine opening the little blue Tiffany box and finding jewelry from Zale’s. This is not good for the brand. Once you buy the plant and can its your’s, so there is nothing wrong with people re-using the Monrovia can.

How can Monrovia keep this from happening and at the same time work with the local nursery carrying Monrovia plants to take the lead in recycling efforts? What if Monrovia took their empty cans back? What if I was able to advertise along with Monrovia’s national ad campaigns that we will take back any cans with the Monrovia logo? You bring the cans back to us and Monrovia picks them up every so often. I don’t know how Monrovia would do this or the costs involved but the good will that would be generated might pay for it all. I can see the ad campaign with the gardener of the house returning a dozen “Monrovia” cans to their favorite local nursery where they then pick up some more Monrovia plants all the while knowing they can bring the empty cans back.

If we don’t take the lead in recycling these cans eventually the government will step in and require a deposit on plant cans much like soda bottles. Rather than let the government get involved lets do it ourselves. What if I offered my customers a 10 cent credit towards their next Monrovia purchase with every Monrovia gallon can returned?

I don’t know if Monrovia can re-use these cans. Maybe there are disease problems or the cans won’t last long enough for them to re-use. Perhaps they could make arrangements with a recycling company to take the cans. With Monrovia taking back the cans it builds good will with the consumer, provides a great marketing campaign, and gets the cans out of my nursery where they just clutter things up.

There is a great benefit to being the first to do something. Being the first to recycle their cans Monrovia and its retailers get the credit for doing something good and it may force other wholesale nurseries to follow suit. It is important for the wholesale nurseries to get involved as it has been the retail nurseries that have been dealing with this up until now.