The problem of plastic

The problem of plastic
Eco friendly white silk ribbons blowing in the breeze against a beach backdrop | Limewood Flowers | Eco florist | Lincolnshire wedding florist | Image copyright Mel Brown Weddings

If you haven’t heard about the problems of plastic pollution then you have probably been living under a rock for the last few years. The recent wave of awareness and action came after BBC series Blue Planet II with David Attenborough in 2017. This brought home to everyone the impact that plastic waste is having on the marine environment and the ridiculous scale of the problem. Just search for ‘plastic pollution’ and you will find a lot to read.

Following this, the campaign to reduce single use plastics was really successful and also led to innovation and investment into alternative products and manufacturing methods.

It is important to point out though, that this is not about getting rid of plastic altogether. It is an incredibly useful and important material. What we really need to do it get rid of those plastics that are only used once and then thrown away (e.g. most packaging) as well as finding better ways to recycle other plastics and prevent plastic waste from polluting our environment.

Where is plastic used in floristry?

Plastic is used everywhere – because it is such a useful product! The types of plastic you might see in your wedding flowers are:

  • Floral foam – that green stuff in tablecentres that keeps all the flowers in place and watered at the same time.
  • Plastic containers – decorative or hidden that the flowers and floral foam are in
  • Cellophane – in gift wrapping or for transporting your flowers
  • Ribbons – almost all satin ribbons are made from plastic and I always think of these as hidden plastic as it is so easy to forget so many fabrics are made from it.

But this is not all, in creating the flowers plastic will be used in so many ways:

  • The plastic buckets used to store the flowers at the shop
  • The cellophane each bunch of flowers arrives in from the wholesaler
  • The little bit of elastic the bunches are tied with
  • Tape for holding floral foam in containers
  • Plastic price markers for flowers
  • Watering cans
  • Scissor handles

The list goes on and where should it stop? Do we consider all the plastic used in the whole business not just in the flower part of it. What about the keyboard I am typing on right now, that’s plastic. How many plastic components are in my car that I deliver the flowers in?

Where do we draw the line?

As I mentioned in my last post, being eco-friendly is about choices and options at every stage of the process. It would be impossible to be a florist without using plastic (stone buckets are not exactly practical and metal ones can taint the water and kill the flowers) so I try to make informed decisions.

My designs have almost no single use plastic. Again, it is difficult to get rid of it entirely but in most of my work the only single use plastic is tape and perhaps that little bobble on the end of a pin holding the buttonhole on. The tape is used to hold chicken wire in containers and this is what I use instead of floral foam. Yes, you might then ask, what about the containers.

This is a tricky one. Many of the containers are plastic but they are designed to be reusable. This is great except when the arrangement is given as a gift at the wedding (one of the things I encourage) so I have no control over whether the plastic is reused. In most probability it won’t be. Again, I try to avoid this by offering pretty ceramic bowls for the arrangement instead but there is a price difference and sometimes the lower cost of the plastic bowl means that is the way it works.

Ceramic bowls not plastic and they make great presents

I hope you can see that I have done my best to deliver a very low plastic option. Yet when I am working on a wedding I am almost surrounding by plastic waste that no one else will see. What do we do about that?

Plastic in the supply chain

Plastic is the universally accepted way of wrapping flowers and I don’t mean the cellophane that you see on a gift bouquet. It is almost funny the way that flowers are delivered from the wholesaler in little plastic sleeves, these are removed and thrown away before the flowers arranged with others and fresh plastic is used to wrap them up. These sleeves are necessary as otherwise stems can get tangled and broken just by getting them out of their buckets.

Despite this almost universal use of plastic it is not actually very good at looking after the flowers as they can ‘sweat’ in their plastic sleeves (like potatoes in a bag!) and they get mouldy and die more quickly. It is simply the cheapest, most durable packaging.

‘I can’t possibly make a difference’

While it may seem that there is very little any one person can do against this tide of plastic there are options. As a florist, my main wholesaler wraps their flowers in paper – due to demand from florists like me. This is a huge step forward; they are the only wholesaler to do this so far but it shows that it is possible and that every single voice adds up to something more.

In the same way customers can vote with their feet, as the saying goes. There are florists out there like me who are providing a low plastic option. Try this article for some ideas. Or you can go local with Flowers from the Farm. A network of 700 growers and florists across the UK and most of them are making eco friendly choices too.

So if you are looking for a more eco friendly and almost no plastic option for your wedding flowers just get in touch.

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