Nursery and Greenhouse Containers and the Environment
With the nursery and greenhouse industry’s recent focus on “green products”, buzz words such as: Sustainable, Earth-friendly, Eco-sensitive, Natural, Biodegradable, Compostable, etc. are being tossed around today. Most of the “green” terms being used do not have commonly accepted definitions or industry consensus as to their meaning. Some companies are simply trying to associate their products with terms that appear to make them look favorable in regards to the environment, without any real qualification or documentation. By appearing to be “green” or “sustainable”, companies hope to cash in on the consumer’s interest in environmentalism, which is being demonstrated by how they spend their retail dollars.
The net result is a lot of confusion and questions for growers, retailers, and consumers as to what to believe and how to make sure a product they are purchasing is the best choice for our environment.
For Western’s credibility, we believe it is important to precisely state the facts about our products:
Made with Recycled Paper
The newspaper we use is collected by charitable organizations and is termed post-consumer. The Kraft, waxed, and other waste paper we use are termed pre-consumer. Western has a 50+ year history of making great products with waste paper and we feel proud to use material that might otherwise be headed for the waste stream (landfills, etc.). For example, in 2009 the U.S. E.P.A. estimated (PDF) over 28% of municipal solid waste was paper. To learn more about the third-party certified recycled content of Western’s products, visit our Certified Recycled Content page.
Biodegradability and Compostability
At Western, we produce an array of molded fiber greenhouse and nursery containers with different and partially overlapping life expectancies to meet our customers’ diverse growing needs. One thing all of our containers have in common is they are made with recycled paper and are designed to decompose. The time it takes to decompose depends on formulation and a series of environmental factors that affect the container’s life in both positive and negative ways. In the natural environment (under conditions that provide oxygen exchange, moisture and support soil microorganisms), the majority of Western’s molded fiber containers will naturally decompose into organic matter within one year of customary disposal, as defined by the FTC’s recently proposed Green Guidelines.
The metal and nylon hangers, as well as the brass eyelets used on our baskets, are not biodegradable, but are recyclable.
The conditions needed to break down molded fiber containers:
- The paper media must become wet and stay moist for a period of time. Without adequate moisture the biodegrading process will not take place.
- Aerobic (oxygen exchange) conditions are needed to support the bacteria, yeasts and fungi which “eat” the containers. Without the presence of oxygen (anaerobic) the organisms cannot live and organic matter (paper) will not breakdown.
- The soil temperature must be a minimum of 50–55 degrees Fahrenheit to support organism growth. At soil temperatures lower than 50 degrees, the organisms which consume paper are not active.
- Nitrogen is needed to balance the carbon content of the paper. Good soil fertility is not only helpful for plant growth, but will also speed the breakdown of our paper containers.
In some cases our containers can be planted “Pot & All”
For many years, fiber containers have been used for bare root shrubs and trees, and given proper care, can be planted pot and all. The horticultural benefit of planting pot and all is reducing potential transplant shock for plants with unestablished rootballs. By leaving the newly planted shrub or tree in our biodegradable containers, their roots are not disturbed or damaged as they potentially would be if a plastic pot was removed before planting.
When planting pot and all, care must be exercised to ensure that the pot does not confine root growth or prevent the plant from receiving adequate moisture. Western recommends that the rim and bottom be removed and sides of the pot split, allowing physical contact with the plant’s roots and the media inside with the field soil the pot is planted in. By doing so, the roots are not constrained by the pot and can access moisture from the soil. In very dry climates such as the southwest U.S., universities like Colorado State and Utah State recommend completely removing fiber pots to prevent wicking of moisture.
Western's step-by-step planting video instructions help ensure root growth will not be impaired when planting “Pot & All.”
Herbaceous plants, like annual bedding plants, normally have fibrous root systems that are not aggressive enough to grow through the walls of our standard containers. Planting pot and all is not recommended with these types of short lived plants due to the potential of constricting root growth and the container not breaking down fast enough. The exception would be our thin wall paper pots. While the roots of tomatoes and most vegetables will grow through the lightweight container’s relative thin sidewalls, growers such as Bonnie Plant Farms, recommend the bottom half of the pot be “gingerly” pealed off before inserting the plant into the planting hole.
Not considered “Organic”, but can be used to grow organic plants
Our standard containers are not considered “Organic”, but can be used to grow organic plants. The term Organic, used in reference to production of food and plants, has strict qualifications that are defined by the USDA and other regulatory agencies. Laws and or regulations are in place requiring specific qualifications be met to term a product “organic”. The standard formulations we use in our molded fiber nursery and greenhouse containers, are completely safe for growing plants, but contain ingredients that do not qualify as organic.
While we do not claim to be an organic product, we have had growers receive approval from Oregon Tilth (An Organic certifying organization recognized by the USDA and others) that organic vegetable transplants can be grown in our molded fiber containers provided that the plant is removed from the container prior to being planted in the soil.
It is our understanding that each grower wanting to seek organic certification for production needs to file a detailed practices and management plan with the certifying agency. There are a number of organizations that provide certification including; Oregon Tilth, Florida Certified Organic Growers, California Certified Organic Growers and others.
U.S. Lacey Act
As part of its dedication to principles of responsible manufacturing, Western Pulp Products has incorporated Lacey Act compliance efforts into the sourcing and sale of all of its products and product lines.
The Lacey Act is a conservation law first passed in 1900. It has been amended by Congress several times, most recently in 2008. The 2008 Lacey Act amendments were aimed at preventing plant and wood products that have been illegally taken or harvested anywhere in the world from entering the commerce stream in the United States.
The 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act require all importers of plant and wood products to file declarations with the Department of Agriculture designating the nature and source of the imported product. Because Western Pulp Products does not directly import any plant or wood products into the United States, Western Pulp Products is not subject to the Lacey Act’s declaration requirements.
The 2008 amendments also prohibit the import, export, transport, sale, receipt, acquisition or purchase of any plant or wood product taken or harvested in violation of any domestic or foreign law. Civil and criminal penalties apply to violations of the Lacey Act done “knowingly” and to violations that could have been prevented in the exercise of “due care.”
Although Western Pulp’s product line is made from pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled waste paper, Western Pulp is committed to meeting the Lacey Act’s objectives of preventing illegally sourced wood products from being trafficked in the United States. Western Pulp has not and will not knowingly transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any wood product that has been illegally taken or harvested. Additionally, Western Pulp has implemented a Lacey Act “Due Care Program” to continually monitor its fiber supply in an effort to identify and sequester any wood products that fall under the prohibitions of the Lacey Act.
For more information about Western Pulp’s Lacey Act compliance efforts, contact our Corporate Office in Corvallis, Oregon.