South African families use products made of plastics in our gardens all the time: from the bags and punnets in which plants come from the nursery, to garden furniture, tools, decorations, pipes , trays, watering cans, garden boots, pool covers and more. Items made from plastic are durable, versatile, strong and come in many shapes, sizes and colours.
When we socialise and entertain outdoors, plastics are again everywhere – from beverage bottles and food packaging, to cutlery and tableware.
Among all the types of plastic in general use, one of the most easily recognised is PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), which is most often transparent and clear, but could also be tinted or come in solid colour versions. We see and use PET all the time: it is used mainly for beverage bottles, but also for bottles for household, personal care and pharmaceutical products, and packaging for foodstuffs and other goods. All these variations are labelled with the #1 polymer code in a triangle on or near the bottom of bottles and containers made of PET.
Very important is the fact that PET is also 100% recyclable: after use in our homes and gardens it should not be treated as trash, but rather as a resource that can be recycled and re-used. And indeed, PET bottles are recycled into many items in everyday use: fibre filling for pillows, duvets, geotextiles, clothing, as well as carpets in cars, and a host of other uses – but most importantly, also as brand new PET bottles and packaging containers. It is the perfect cycle that means fewer original resources are used to make bottles. This is not only good for the environment generally, but specifically also saves on landfill, and saves money for municipalities as well as consumers.
PET beverage bottles can also be re-used in our gardens in ways that are limited only by you and your family’s creativity. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Turn them into feeders or drinking bottles for wild birds.
- Cut them in half to protect freshly-planted seedlings against insects and pets.
- Use the bottom halves as small planters. Children could help decorate them as a fun weekend activity.
- Use as mini temporary ‘hothouses’ for tender young plants in winter.
- Cut some holes in a used large bottle, partly bury it in the garden and pour in some beer to create a trap for slugs and snails.
- The top half of bottles (keep the caps on) with a slit cut into them and placed over locks will protect those from rain.
- Filled with water or dirt, used PET bottles become an instant temporary weighting method to prevent items being carried off by the wind.
- A few bottles with small holes cut in them and half buried upside-down could become a makeshift drip irrigation method for seedlings.
- PET bottles can be used as a building material: filled with dirt or unrecyclable packaging items, they could become a garden shed or structure.
Above all, recycle! Ideally, put used PET in a separate bag from other recyclables for collection, or drop it off at a suitable site.