Derek – Sunday 4th September 2022

On Friday, we tidied up the hundreds of pots filling the back stage in order to make it usable for functions other than storage. This threw up the problem of what to do with the pots. We have far too many. Pots come to us in various ways. We buy plants in pots, plant them out and we have a spare pot. People donate plants, in pots of course. People donate their spare pots. Consequently, we have many more than we can use and need to get rid of the surplus.

Some we hope to sell. We have some ceramic pots that are likely to sell, and even standard clay pots. But the plastic pots, from small (the size of a teacup) to large (the size of a bucket), they will be less saleable. They have no aesthetic appeal, they are purely functional. I suspect we will be giving many away.

And those no one wants?

We may send off for recycling. But here’s the rub. A lot of the plastic pots we have are black. Coloured plastic pots can be recycled locally, black plastic ones can’t be. This is a function of the automatic machinery that picks out plastics at waste centres. The special laser devices cannot pick out black. So if we send black pots to Jenkins Lane, Newham’s dump, they will end up in landfill.

There is nothing inherently different about a black plastic pot than, say, a red one, apart from the pigment. Both can be melted down and recycled, but only if the machinery can pick them out.

There are two remedies. Neither profound. The machinery could be adapted so it picks out black as well as other colours. This is said to be very expensive. The other is that by law a lot less black plastic is manufactured. Greenpeace say, on black plastic, ‘ban this hard-to-process material as soon as possible and stop it adding to the pile of plastic pollution ending up in rivers, oceans and landfill.’

Our current surfeit of pots can’t wait for government action. Can we find someone who wants the ones we can’t sell, black pots included?

There’s been a Darwinian struggle in the wildflower bed this summer. Not plant versus plant, but plants against heat and drought. Many died in those ultra hot days in July. One of the few that struggled through was hedge mustard, with its characteristic small, 4-petalled, yellow flowers. Should we get summers like this one in future years, I am sure the hedge mustard would take over completely if we simply left the wildflower bed. That’s how evolution works, even a small advantage improves a plant’s chances in the struggle for survival.

We have had rain recently, and it looks like we are back to the normal pattern. Though with climate change, it seems hot dry summers are becoming the new normal.

But with the recent rain, in the wildflower bed, I spot a couple of California poppies and a half-shrivelled, bristly ox-tongue, managing to put out a single dandelion-type flower. Both yellow, like the hedge mustard; no blue borage, red poppies, or pink campion. They’ll be back, as likely they set seeds in their distressed state before dying. So they will come again next year, even if we don’t add extra seed.

Wild flowers are survivors; they wouldn’t be around otherwise. But our changing climate will be their severest test, and it is likely many will fail.

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