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Gardening with Dave Allan: The war on plastic – sustainable solutions for Christmas



Now we’ve finished wrapping up our plants for the season, it won’t be long till we start wrapping presents and preparing for Christmas. After the festivities, householders consign 25% more rubbish to landfill than usual, and a frightening amount of that contains plastic. So, let’s try to reduce the amount of plastic we buy, and reuse it whenever we can.

I like to make sure that as much waste as possible can be composted, reused or recycled. And I’m always looking out for any alternatives to plastic that I can also use in the garden after the frivolities and fun.

Some estimates suggest the UK’s Christmas wrapping paper could go round the world 9 times at the equator. This paper mountain should end up in the compost heap, not landfill. But how often does this happen?

Shiny paper contains a plastic-based coating which cannot be composted, so use matt recycled or FSC-approved paper. And you could make all the packaging composter-friendly by using string, not sellotape.

The Nutscene factory in Angus [https://nutscene.com] uses jute in making biodegradable string in a wide range of bright, eye-catching colours. And Twool use the equally compostable sheep’s wool for their coloured string.[https://www.twool.co.uk]. The secret is to avoid shiny plastic string and products containing a golden or silver thread.

And for gardening friends, why not include a label that would double for plants next year? Nutscene have a selection of slate labels, suitable for chalk or a liquid chalk pen, and beeswax crayons from New Zealand work with widely available wooden labels.

For a touch of sparkle on a present, why not sprinkle some glitter on the paper? But ca’ canny. Regular glitter is everlasting plastic, so choose special biodegradable glitter made from plant cellulose instead. This safe alternative for compost worms won’t contaminate the soil. Ecoglitter [https://www.ecoglitterfun.com/the-eco-bit] sell glitter as tiny flakes or dust for use on paper, labels or even yourself. An aloe gel acts as a safe, removable glue.

This glitter not only adds the finishing touch to 100% compostable wrappings, but works with all sorts of decorations. It comes in as many colours as the more traditional kind: gold, silver, red, green, blue and so on.

The glitter adds sparkle to pine or alder cones and if you’re blessed with artistic flair, you could paint shapes and patterns on evergreen leaves like ivy or rhododendron. My role in all this is to stand back and most fulsomely praise the skills and expertise of others. But I will risk life and limb battling with the skin-slashing juniper my son likes for brightening up the top of a cupboard.

There are lots of less lethal natural decorations we can get from the garden. See if any deciduous stems could support a string of LED lights. As icing on the cake, some stems might even have impeccably sculpted grey-green lichen clinging on. Have a look in herbaceous borders and rough grass, there might still be deadheads that are presentable enough to bring indoors.

It’s fun raiding the garden to make your own decorations rather than buying fake plastic alternatives, however alluring and expensive. Why not make a natural wreath frame, using willow or cornus? It will act as a base for evergreens like holly or ivy. The willow wreaths I made a few years ago still soldier on till they’re ready for the compost heap.

If you do have an artificial Christmas tree or decorations, dust them down for another year, but I would urge you to think twice before buying plastic replacements.

Plant of the week

Cotoneaster conspicuus reliably produces a profusion of bright red berries that even the blackbirds can’t finish by Christmas. Only grows to a height of 1.5m.


Source : HeraldScotland

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