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What’s driving demand today?

Biodegradable horticultural containers predate plastic but are capturing fresh interest from growers, retailers and consumers. One company that has seen sustainability come full circle is Western Pulp in Covallis, Ore.

Starting with a bushel of old magazines and $250 for homemade experimental equipment, in 1954 Ralph Chapman was the first to bring fiber molded floral containers out West. Western Pulp’s current owners purchased the business in 1958 and now have operations in six states. Even back then, before the environment was a societal concern, Western Pulp was diverting tons of paper from landfills.

Paper mache floral lines transitioned naturally to nursery and greenhouse lines, because traditional florists also were growers. Product lines have since expanded to eco-friendly protective packaging for shipping. One growing customer base is wineries that ship bottles or wine direct to consumers.

The newspaper Western Pulp uses as a raw material is collected from households by charitable organizations and termed post-consumer. Other waste paper it uses, such as corrugated box trimmings, are preconsumer. Western Pulp’s recycled content measurements are based on 5 years of third-party independent certification.

In the last 10 years, more biodegradable pots have debuted in the market made from rice hulls, coco fiber, straw and plastic-like substances derived from corn and wheat. These polylactic acid (PLA) resins can be composted.

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