Alaska News

Jeff Lowenfels: Recycle those garden pots

One of the best things that happens out at the Alaska Botanical Garden is the annual Plastic Pot Recycling Day. This year it is going to be on Aug. 23.

This really is an amazing event. It is now emulated around the country, but I doubt anyone comes close to last year's collection of 3 tons of plastic. This is an incredible amount when you consider the meager thickness and extreme light weight of those plastic cell packs and the pots we use. It is really a staggering number.

I don't know about you, but pots and cell packs and flats seem to breed over at our house. I took in a bunch last year, so how come there is a closet full of them again this year? No matter, now is the time to gather up all of them so they won't continue taking up space you could be using for other storage.

You don't want to have to collect all of your pots on the 23rd. Do it now and be ready. To make it simple, let me tell you that this year all plastic garden containers are going to be accepted. That is right, all of them, no matter what kind of plastic it happens to be.

Having said that all plastic pots will be taken, there are a few simple rules. The first is that you need to sort your collection into two groups (stacked by size, hopefully so they are easier on the collection volunteers!). Look on the bottom of the pots. The first group should be all of the pots that are stamped #2, HDPE or 2, while all those with #5, #6 and anything unmarked in the other. Simple -- so please don't expect the good volunteers out at the garden to sort for you. They will have enough to do collecting.

In addition to the two-groups rule, shake out loose soil at a minimum. Rinsing things is really much more helpful, though, and not very difficult. This will not only save space when these pots are loaded into bins so RockTenn Recycling can ship them to Seattle (where they will be turned into plastic wood, lawn furniture and who knows what else), but let you fit yours into your vehicle so you can transport them over to the garden.

Next, if you have metal hangers on some of your pots, take them off. They are not welcome. And finally, once again, please sort your stuff into like sizes, or better put, stack the items according to size and shape.

This is an event for non-commercial folks only. However, recognizing that commercial greenhouses, retailers and landscapers have pots to recycle, arrangements have been made so that they can drop theirs off at the Recycling Center Aug. 18- 22 (call 562-2267 first).

Finally, if you are in need of pots, go on out to the Botanical Garden and get some. They are free for the asking. After all, reuse is recycling, too.

By the way, as fall approaches, this annual event should coincide with your own cleaning up. It's no fun sorting tools and the like and putting things in their place when the temperature is below freezing.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar for the weekend of Aug. 15

Harvest: What are you waiting for? Eat what you grow or share what you can't eat via Plant a Row For The Hungry. Mill and Feed is a drop-off point in Anchorage. Food banks, Bean's and local places of worship are good spots to donate produce.

Slugs: Keep at it!

Annuals as houseplants: Some of the annuals in your gardens may make great houseplants at least for part of the winter. Consider potting some up now.

Butter and eggs: They are everywhere. Try and get yours -- or at least the flowers, which contain thousands of seeds.

Cooperative Extension Service plant sale and classes: The Cooperative Extension Service hosts a fundraiser plant sale and a host of free gardening classes at their 16th Avenue location as part of CES Centennial Week celebrations. Saturday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Cooperative Extension Service, C Street and 16th Avenue.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2020 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He's authored several books on organic gardening; his latest is "DIY Autoflowering Cannabis: A New Way To Grow." Reach him at