Things to Recycle for Use in the Garden

As per our Sustainability Policy, at Freaky Cacti we always strive to take advantage of recycled materials as much as we can. We do this because we believe that it’s up to every single person on the planet to do as much as possible to reduce the human race’s collective footprint.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of cardboard and plastic items which you can easily recycle for use in the garden. It’s by no means exhaustive, but we hope that it starts you off thinking what else might be reused, as well as to cause you to view your “rubbish” in a different light. For example, we usually drink bottled water, rather than from the tap. This results in mountains of half-litre to eight-litre plastic water bottles wasted each year! However, we ourselves take every bottle we finish and reuse the bottom sections to plant Trichocereus cacti seeds and the tops as mini-greenhouses (‘cloches’), among other utilities. Every little helps…

Cardboard Things to Recycle for Use in the Garden

Objects made out of cardboard are great for recycling – they’re light, durable and are biodegradable too! The majority of us throw away serious amounts of paper-based waste each week, so it’s a great place to focus on when looking for new ways to reuse your rubbish. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started, but your mind is the limit…

Drinks cups

Unwaxed, “disposable” cardboard or paper drinks cups make perfect containers for plants, especially as – unlike plastic cups – they shouldn’t leach any toxic chemicals over time and so should be ideal as longer-term homes for smaller plants, cuttings or seedlings. We recommend punching one or two drainage holes in the bottom of each cup. These can also be planted directly in the ground once their contents are mature enough to survive there, as they will biodegrade over time, allowing the plant’s roots to expand into the surrounding earth. 

Egg boxes

Egg boxes and cartons may be used as biodegradable seed planters, but you’ll certainly find some other uses too, should you put your mind to it! Simply fill each section with some soil, sow some seeds and then wait for germination to take place. Once you have a few established seedlings growing in each section, separate each cell and plant them straight in the ground. The cardboard will naturally degrade over time, allowing the transition from seedling to in-the-ground plant with minimum effort or shock to the plant’s delicate root system.

Toilet paper rolls

Cardboard toilet paper rolls can be used as biodegradable planters and – as are most cardboard containers – are particularly well-suited to cultivating species which are sensitive to root disturbance, as they can be planted directly into the ground. While the rolls will degrade over time, it’s advisable to peel back the tops of the tubes prior to planting, to allow decent airflow and hence discourage fungal growth, etc.

Plastic Things to Recycle for Use in the Garden

Plastic is in many ways a plague on the Earth, so it’s essential that we recycle or otherwise reuse it whenever we can! This is especially important as most types of plastic are, for all intents and purposes, immortal.

Cake and pastry packaging

Resealable (hinged or lidded), plastic cake and pastry packaging can be used in a variety of ways, but we use them chiefly as small propagators for seeds (particularly Lophophora and Trichocereus species) and the leaves of various Psychotria species. We just fill them with our preferred medium, introduce the required amount of moisture and then add the leaves or seeds and seal the lid. This method is pretty much no effort and is a great way to make use of what would otherwise be thrown away.

Drinks bottles

As we briefly mentioned at the start of this article, we like to reuse plastic drinks bottles of all kinds, in many ways. We cut the tops off to use them as mini-greenhouses, cloches and humidity tents and use the bottoms as seed trays (drill/punch some holes if using for this purpose), plant pots and saucers. We also use them as rooting containers for cuttings too, such as our Salvia divinorum.

Drinks cups

Used (clean) or unused ‘disposable’ plastic drinks cups – the kind you often get at parties and public functions – make great temporary plant pots or seedling containers when needed. For example, years ago we received several hundred bare-root Lophophora williamsii plants which arrived before the extra pots we’d ordered in to contain them. One small brainwave (and a visit to the local corner shop) later and the plants were all safely housed in their temporary accommodation! Don’t forget to punch a hole in the bottom of each cup for drainage too.

Fruit and vegetable punnets/trays

Supermarket-bought fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, mushrooms, grapes and raspberries, often come in transparent, stackable plastic punnets and trays. These are absolutely perfect for use as reusable growing containers, with our preferred plants for these being cacti (check the “Takeaway Tek” if you’ve not come across it before). Even better, many such containers come with premade drainage holes already, making them an incredibly low effort route to sowing bulk cactus seeds and more!

Milk bottles

Plastic milk bottle-type containers are usable for a wide range of functions. For example, they can be cut down into strips to make plant identification tags (use a marker pen to label them), cut the tops off and use them as scoops (for earth, perlite, etc.), cut the bottoms off and use them as temporary growing containers, as saucers or for storage, use them as watering cans (simply punch/drill some holes in the lids, fill with water and up-end over the area you wish to water). You can also be kind to our avian friends by filling the bottles with birdseed and making holes in them so our feathered friends can peck away to their heart’s desire!