Innovative Strategy to Reduce Single-Use Plastics in Sustainable Horticulture by a Refund Strategy for Flowerpots


(1) Background: Black plastics pose a general problem in sustainability issues, as the recycling is hampered by the black colour disguising the type of plastics in the NIR scanner on the garbage sorting belt, as the black colour absorbs NIR radiation. Sorting flower/plant pots suffer from their additional soil contamination in the strive for sustainable flower production in horticulture. As these black plastic flowerpots are currently rarely recycled, a study was instigated of reusing them based on Heino Schwarz’s innovative idea. (2) Methods: In the first step, the carbon footprint was calculated for the flowerpots of two sizes employed in the nursery, their customised production from virgin polypropylene and the delivery from the Netherlands to the nursery in Bavaria. In step 2, the carbon footprint was calculated based on PAS 2050-1 for the number of flowerpots in circulation and return rates in 2019 and in 2020 to assess the GHG saved by the innovation. (3) Results: The innovative concept of Heino Schwarz is a discount on returning the customised used flowerpots, with a 40% increase from 24,533 returned flowerpots in 2019 to 39,797 in 2020. This shows the increasing acceptance and environmental awareness of the consumer and the great success. (4) Conclusions and outlook: The present case study has shown that innovative approaches such as discounts for reused/returned flowerpots of the Schwarz nursery can save 3.85–4.56 t CO2eq, a valuable contribution to reducing GHG emissions, creating environmental awareness among the consumers and building a close B2C relationship. The amount of CO2eq saved is equivalent to ca. 40% of the annual carbon burden of a European/German citizen or ca. 23,000 km driven in a private vehicle, the average mileage driven privately in two years.

Sustainability, (13), 15,