The local volunteer-based program to recycle plastic garden pots is currently on hold because a lack of suitable space to house the program. In the eight years since the program began, nearly 71 tons of garden pots have been recycled instead of landfilled, due to the hard work of a small group of dedicated volunteers.
The program previously was housed at the Crossroads Center in a donated space; that space is no longer available, putting the program on hold until a suitable space can be found. Previous local drop-off locations for plastic garden pots are no longer accepting the pots; these locations include the Casey’s Garden Shop, A&B Hatchery, Niepagen Greenhouse, and the Crossroads Center. Residents are asked to reuse their pots where possible or otherwise throw them in the trash, as this grade of plastic is not accepted in curbside recycling programs, despite the fact that they are often labeled with familiar recycling codes.
The garden pot recycling program started in late 2007 as a partnership between the Ecology Action Center, McLean County Master Gardeners, and other organizations. Additional entities provided assistance to the program over the years, most notably YouthBuild McLean County and Bloomington Township.
The effort to recycle garden pots long been possible only due to the hard work of many volunteers; it is a labor intensive process that involves cleaning the pots of dirt and debris, sorting by size and material, and stacking or baling the material for accumulation until a sizable load is ready for sale to a plastics recycler. While the plastic does have value as a commodity, the revenue is insufficient to cover the true full costs of the program. The program has only been viable with the donation of rent-free work space and thousands of hours of volunteer labor.