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Green karma: Recycle plastic garden planters

They stack up in corners, get leaned against garage walls and piled up on shelves. They're the plastic pots, trays and six- and four-packs that held the flowers, shrubs, veggies and herbs you've bought over the years.

Instead of letting them pile up, isn't it time you found a new home for them?

Sharing excess pots and trays with other gardening friends is one solution. But chances are good they have similar piles. They're likely to react to your offer of more as they would if you were proffering a sack full of giant zucchini.

With a resounding "No, thanks."

Recycling might be a better option for you and the environment.

Only two recyclers in the Mid-Columbia accept plastic flower pots, trays and six-packs for recycling. One is Clayton Ward Material Recycling in Kennewick and Richland. The second is Waste Management in Kennewick, which then funnels them to Clayton Ward so the requirements are the same for both places.

Acceptable plastics are those marked with the triangular recycling symbol and the number 1 (PET for polyethylene terephthalate) or 2 (HDPE for high-density polyethylene), said Pat Puntney. He and his family own the Clayton Ward Material Recycling Centers in Kennewick, Richland and Salem.

Other types of plastics are numbered three through seven. You'll usually find the number stamped on the bottom of the container.

"Ones and twos are the most common forms of plastic, making them the ones we can afford to handle," he said, explaining that it's a matter of economics.

If Clayton Ward accepted the other less common plastics it would take a year or more to get enough to make transporting them to the recycling site profitable, Puntney said.

Some plastic pots, trays and six-packs have no recycling marks but can still be recycled.

It's hard to tell what type of plastic they are without a chemical test but if people bring in an unmarked pot we'll accept it, he said.

"A little bit of contamination doesn't hurt," Puntney said.

Neither does a little dirt.

"You don't need to run them through the dishwasher, they just need to be empty for recycling," he said.

And bringing the different plastics in mixed together is OK too.

"We'll do the sorting," Puntney said.

Some garden centers also are accepting used plastic pots. But in this area they're likely to end up in the landfill, not the recyclers.

"We take them as a courtesy to our customers," said Renae Bobbett, "but they go in our Dumpster."

She and her husband, Todd, own Beaver Bark Gift and Garden Center in Richland. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Garden Centers of America, a national educational and promotional organization for independent retail garden centers.

"So I'm aware of what other garden centers are doing, and where. So far it's just those in the big cities who can afford to recycle the pots," she said.

Right now it's not economically feasible for garden centers in the area to recycle, and we'd have to devote too much space to storage before we had enough to pay for us to haul them to the recycler, or for them to send out a truck, she said.

But it's an idea that's coming to smaller communities. And when it does we'll be right on it, Bobbett said.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com.

Recycle your planters

-- Clayton Ward Material Recycling is at 119 E. Albany Ave. in Kennewick, 582-8277, and 1936 Saint St. in Richland, 375-4086. Hours at both locations are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

-- Waste Management's recycling facility is at 2627 S. Ely St., Kennewick, 586-7555. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday; from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Saturday.

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