To have the best garden possible, you need the right tools to get the job done right. One of those tools might be plastic, and this means you have to make sure that it’s safe if it’s going to be used in your garden and not make contact with your fruits and vegetables.
While there are plenty of different types of plastic, only some are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use around food without leaching harmful chemicals into your product or flowers.
Here are 10 types of safe plastic for gardening.
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In recent years, PVC plastic has become a commonly used material in gardening. This is because it’s affordable and easy to find at your local hardware store.
It’s easy to mold into any shape and will retain its strength even if you expose it to sunlight. However, PVC plastic is highly toxic when burned (which makes sense, since most plastics are).
When burned, it releases dioxins into the air that are known carcinogens. To avoid exposure while still using PVC plastic, simply make sure you don’t ever burn anything that contains this type of plastic—like old gutter hangers or wire-mesh planters—by choosing other eco-friendlier materials instead.
Polyethylene is generally considered safe to use with food because it is a form of plastic and most forms are naturally resistant to many toxins.
Polyethylene may contain BPA, but only at low levels that should not cause concern when used in garden containers and other non-food applications.
Polyethylene comes in several grades, including low-density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), medium density polyethylene (MDPE), and high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
All four varieties have food contact approval. HDPE can safely be used with plants up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. LDPE and LLDPE containers have a melting point between 160 to 180 degrees F.
Also known as Polyethylene terephthalate, PET is one of the most common plastics used today. Produced from petroleum, it’s typically colored with a dye to give it certain properties.
It’s resistant to fading and sunlight exposure and has exceptional tensile strength—so it’s an excellent choice for small plastic items that need to withstand wear and tear.
However, studies have shown that when exposed to ultra-violet light (as can be found in direct sunlight), PET can break down into carcinogenic substances.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a very common form of plastic. Sometimes it’s used to make plastic bags and sometimes it’s used to make hose, which is probably why you’re here.
While LDPE is considered safe, it isn’t necessarily biodegradable. To be sure that your garden hose can break down quickly in compost piles or landfills, check out LDPE made from plants such as corn or sugar cane instead of petroleum.
When plastics are not labeled, there’s no way to know what kind they are—or if they might leach harmful chemicals into the soil or even our food supply. read more about 10 Types of Safe Plastic for Gardening.
Polypropylene is one of those plastics that are darn near perfect. It doesn’t look or feel cheap, it can be used in hot or cold temperatures, and it stands up well to abrasions.
Plus, if you use a reusable bag made from PP, you don’t have to worry about any unknown chemicals leaching into your food (it is FDA-approved).
PP bags also last a long time; many folks claim they’ve had the same bag for years. To keep bags like these in tip-top shape—and ensure no one ever mistakenly uses them as trash bags—store them in a place where they won’t get dirty and never put them in the dishwasher.
If you’re looking to buy plastic Home Depot and Lowes. We use these products in our garden every year. They are a bit more expensive than what you’ll find at your local big box store, but they are made with recycled content and are safe!
If you’re doing a large project like our garden redo (it took us several weekends), it’s worth buying in bulk to save yourself some money.
Also, if you have kids as we do, it’s nice to know that there’s no weird stuff leaching into your soil or veggies!
High-density polyethylene, or HDPE, is a type of plastic that is frequently used in trash bins and food packaging.
In addition to being sturdy, it’s also a good choice if you’re worried about chemicals leaching into your soil.
That’s because HDPE doesn’t contain any additives that can seep into soil or water. This makes it an ideal choice for large containers or planters you’ll be using to grow fruits and vegetables.
A bonus: While black HDPE may fade over time in full sunlight, clear HDPE will keep its color as long as you don’t expose it to extreme heat (more than 180 degrees Fahrenheit).
This means you can choose from opaque or transparent—it’s up to you!
PVC Fence Posts
PVC fence posts are a good option when you want to use plastic pots because they’re sturdy and will last a long time.
However, make sure that they’re manufactured from recycled materials—and make sure you don’t reuse fencing that has been treated with pesticides.
You can also fill in any gaps between boards or pickets by using PVC posts, which have small holes along their length. This lets you string your fencing between them to create a solid border.
Styrofoam Cups and Containers
These biodegradable cups and containers are made from a petroleum-based polymer called polystyrene. Styrofoam takes years to break down, but it’s better than styrene—the chemical that makes plastic look transparent.
If you must use these products, you can cut them up into smaller pieces with a utility knife to speed up decomposition.
Just don’t put food in them! Also avoid plastic altogether, which is likely to leach chemicals into your food when heated.
For an added layer of protection, cover your styrofoam container or cup with a bit of aluminum foil before heating it in the microwave.
Save money and be environmentally friendly with nylon sacks. Nylon is a type of artificial fabric manufactured from petroleum.
Since it’s biodegradable, you can use these bags to transport dirty clothes or food scraps to your compost pile instead of throwing them in a trash bag that’ll sit in a landfill forever.
When you have time, wash out these sturdy bags and line them with newspaper or sawdust to make sturdy planting pots.