Start a new thread

1 to 20 of 64 replies


Polystyrene used in pots that later falls to pieces and ends up in the garden, and old plastic bags that end up in a million small pieces.

How do you get this out the soil?  Would it float to the top of a bucket?

Is it bad for the environment?  Will these eventually rot down?  Should I move to the compost heap?

Should I leave for Wall-E and not worry about it?

Any tips?

Last edited: 05 December 2017 17:12:21

If it's already in your soil, all you can do is slowly remove it as you dig/weed/clear, bag it up and put it with your rubbish. Yes it's bad for the environment - it clogs up the innards of all the little creatures in your soil and will kill many of them. No it won't rot down. Ever. It just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces so more and more creatures end up ingesting it. 

White polystyrene is recyclable so get rid of it while it's still unbroken. Empty compost bags make sturdy bin bags if you turn them black side out.

Last edited: 05 December 2017 17:42:39

Raisingirl has said it all.

If you are trying to clear a garden new to you, then you have to go through it day after day and pick out the crap. After 5 years in this garden, I'm still finding bits of plastic, etc. You may think you have cleared it all but then you always find more.  Often after a heavy rainfall, things come to light or after a really windy day crap will appear from neighbouring gardens.

Unbroken polystyrene can be used as part of orchid compost or to bulk out large planted containers but otherwise, no value whatsoever and should be carefully binned whenever you come across it,

I can never understand why polystyrene is still manufactured for packaging etc. ; it will absolutely never break down completely ! To burn it releases dangerous toxins .

Experts reckon now that the worlds oceans are contaminated with microscopic plastic particles , and every fish we consume contains them .

What with the endless destruction of plant habitats , forests and animals due to an ever burgeoning global population , havn't we all made an almighty mess of our planet ?

I've never had the misfortune to find anything untoward in my garden ; the house was built during the inter-war period , (circa 1930s) , on what was then relatively virgin and unploughed former orchards .

I have seen first hand some of the debris buried by unscrupulous builders on so-called 'new-builds' , and sympathise with the owners of such properties . Diesel , tarmac , concrete , barbed-wire and plastic bags and pipes to name but a few .

Last edited: 05 December 2017 18:13:34

"Haven't we made an almighty mess of our planet "...........says it all really.



I've got an old track at the rear of the garden, that used to be used as a dumping ground.  Loads of fly-tipping.

I pick out what I can when I see it.

I stumbled upon something like an old bag or tarp, that had totally disintegrated.  Little bits and pieces, it would take an age with chopsticks to remove all of it.

In reality it's probably only something like a large shopping bag that has broken into parts, but it looks like fish food!

As it's almost localised, I'm tempted to just try and burn the lot.

I was reading only recently about cellophane, and that's a plastic made from cellulose, that breaks down quickly apparently in the soil.  There are alternatives.

 All our personal domestic waste is plastic packaging - even though we do try and avoid buying plastic wrapped items.

I hate polystyrene.  There is an outfit that makes an alternative from mushrooms.

Plenty of materials unavoidably end up in the environment.  Glass fibre insulation has been found in the soil up mountains.  It's really ridiculous.

Last edited: 05 December 2017 18:27:25


I have had;

Plastic sacks, bits of asbestos, glass, toys, bikes, carpets, brick rubble, lath and plaster, lumps of Tarmac, car parts, fridge, lumps of a large sheet metal fabrication, (no idea what), shoes, dozens of them. Rumour has it there's a Reliant Robin in there somewhere. If OH finds that he'll want to restore it

On the plus side, huge lumps of concrete which made great steps and enough hand-made bricks for the summerhouse. 

Much stuff still in there and I try not to bring it to the surface.

Years ago when buying fruit & vegetables , our local greengrocer carefully and skillfully wrapped everything in brown paper bags . These could be used several times before discarding them !

Nowadays it's a different story ; everything is in polystyrene trays or plastic wrapped for the benefit of the supermarkets . Take Easter eggs for example ; normally a huge (wasteful) cardboard box , foil , plus the inevitable 'plastic-bubble' . People buy appearance , and it certainly seems to work , albeit not for the benefit of the environment . Just for the manufacturers profit ! (All for a few grams of chocolate ; you're better off buying a bar) !

Foil-lined crisp packets are another sore point ; non-recyclable is clearly stated on the bag ; why the hell do they make them ?? How many millions of these are thrown away every day in the UK alone ??

Crikey Wayside , you've certainly started something here

Urgh I know your pain the previous owners obviously did not pay for a bin, we find carrier bags full of rubbish everywhere, I planted a walnut tree and had to remove 5 items of clothing from where I wanted to put it, mainly old rain coats, who buries them? Just yesterday I found a old car exhaust under a bush. They had used those clear corrugated sheets for their greenhouse roof, fine but they only last 3-4 years before the UV gets them, so they had taken them down in TINY pieces and chucked it under some bushes, I've not found any way to get them up other than getting comfortable with the kneeler the dogs ball gloves and a bucket.

If your bag is in really small pieces it's probably one of the biodegradable plastics, not sure if that makes it any better.

We are fortunate to have dustbin collections and kerbside recycling now - which we pay for in our rates.

Generations before were not so lucky.  Admittedly they didn't have anywhere as much rubbish to dispose of as we do now, as was mentioned by Paul. Most foods were sold to us wrapped in paper bags which we re-used until they were no longer fit for purpose.  The coal man delivered in hessian sacks which he took away with him, eggs in cardboard boxes or trays, drinks in glass bottles that were returned to the shops, the milk man poured the milk straight into our jugs - I could go on.

When we were digging over a virgin patch of land, we came across an old dump, there were old, discarded use toothpaste tubes, rusty nails, curtain rings, medicine bottles and a few drink bottles, it was interesting to see just what constituted household rubbish in those days, before dustbin men took the rubbish away to fill the tips (old, empty quarries in our case).

At least we are trying to be vigilent and not buy things  with so much packing. Our local market still uses brown paper bags, I refuse the plastic bags and have my veg in brown bags then my reusable bag.. I try to buy meat from a butcher who wraps some in paper but still find he then places it in a small plastic bag grr.. But he says you do not need blood leakng on your bread rolls etc..

It is far worse in USA where anywhere vaguely rural has vast burn pits and they do not care if they burn polystyrene . The reason they say is there is no trash collection in those areas leaves them little choice. Anything that won't burn costs $1 per black sack that they have to take themselves to the town dump...

We do try to be sensible, well most of us on here at least..


There was a brilliant piece on Facebook recently about small changes we can all make to reduce our use of plastic.  I can't remember all the recommendation s but some:  drink straight from the glass, or, if you must use straws, buy paper ones not plastic.  Get in the habit of taking a hot drink with you in a vacuum flask, so you don't need to buy one in a throwaway cup.  Use pencil as much as possible rather than throwaway ballpoint pens. Or use a fountain pen. Use the sort of razor your dad did, that just needs the blade replacing not the whole razor.  

Some were obvious like using shopping bags and choosing produce with less packaging.  But there isn't always a choice, and retailers will always do what suits them.  Where I live, for instance, Llandudno, there's nowhere to buy fruit and veg except the supermarkets. A brave man opened a traditional greengrocery, and I went out of my way to shop there. His produce was good, and I loved being able to buy ripe fruit that I could eat the same day.  I took my surplus herbs in there and he gave them away to his customers. The shop lasted a year, he was losing money.  So sad.

It says something if Facebook produce a list of waste saving tips such as described above - those should be obvious anyway shouldn't they ?

I guess I shouldn't moan if it helps educate 

The plasticking of everything seems to have increased even in the last year or so.  The only protest I can think of is to divest everything of unneccessary packaging once the cashier has passed it over the counter/machine and leave it in a neat little heap within the shop/SM. If left at the end of a conveyor belt in the SM, someone will have to come along and remove it fairly quickly.  Annoying for the staff but maybe it will eventually get thru insist on this useless stuff, you get rid.  Whether you trust big business to dispose of the waste correctly is a different matter.

I'm lucky that I have an organic farm shop just a couple of miles away - paper bags, which I re use, an honesty box old calculator ( after some complained about their lack of mental agility when adding up what they had purchased)

Shame about your Greengrocer chap Josusa

Ideonella sakaiensis is looking promising to break down PET. A paper was released in March 2016 from a group in Tokyo.

Here's the Readers Digest version:

and a paper from the group:

Only PET though. For other plastics there's only photodegradation until (and hopefully) evolution works it's magic again.

I was emailed (and signed) a petition from foe about plastic yesterday. You may want to sign it as well ?


The majority that ends up in our domestic waste bin is plastic.  And is burnable - which I'd almost rather.  Not that I want an incinerator on my doorstep.  Or more incinerators.  I'd prefer not to have the plastic to begin with.

So while there is promise in bugs that can break down some plastics, it doesn't address the issue of the packaging.  Incinerators that thrive on waste and levies such as the landfill tax that were created in good faith, end up aiding and encouraging the burning of waste, and neither diminish packaging.

I watched a TV program recently with drone footage at a waste processing plant, and it was made quite clear that lots of our waste is transported abroad.  China was buying it.  Which again only encourages us to make it.  China rather sensibly is now banning post consumer plastic waste from being imported.  So that's the end of that little money earner and carpet under sweeping for us.  But it's rather ridiculous that we were exporting it in the first place.  Goods and wastes being shuttled back and forth around the globe.  The TV show dressed it up that we were filling what would be empty containers on their return journeys.  In my mind it just appeared that the UK had nothing better to export, and it horrified me.

I quite like the idea of consumer rejection of packaging at the till.  Perhaps we need a concerted effort?

I hadn't factored that much of the waste in the garden could have actually been placed there by residents who couldn't afford to have it removed.  I'm lucky then, that there isn't more.  And what is there , although a pain is mainly manageable, it just feels like a bind cleaning up after others.

We are off the sewerage grid, so our washing machine etc, pumps out to a shared unit for the hamlet, that ends out overflowing to a river.  The micro-plastics are really alarming.  It's likely clothes fibers could make their way out into the environment.  It's a shame as I'd previously thought that recycling plastic bottles into clothing was a great idea.  Plastics are insidious. 


Maybe we should take back control of our plastic!


One of the reasons I buy my bird food from the RSPB is because they strive for eco friendly packaging.  Some of the immediate packaging is plastic bags, but the parcel tape on the cardboard boxes is made of paper reinforced with cotton thread, and internal spaces are filled with crumpled paper not the plastic bubbles or styrofoam chips most mail-order firms use. 


Paul B3 says

"Nowadays it's a different story ; everything is in polystyrene trays or plastic wrapped for the benefit of the supermarkets "

How is it for the benefit of supermarkets who have to pay to have loose produce packaged?

I'm afraid the truth is that some, SOME, NOT ALL customers are too lazy to pick up loose carrots/ onions/ bananas etc and put them in a bag for themselves. 

Trust me, it's the loose stuff that's left at the end of the day , NOT the packaged stuff.

To be fair, a lot of food is packaged to prevent damage but it has gone well beyond a joke.  Watching staff emptying loose veg/fruit onto shelves often makes me cringe - loose tomatoes ( when you can get them ) are often treated exactly the same as potatoes or carrots - probably why so much soft stuff is damaged before customers even start poking around at it.

Perhaps it is also our desire to buy food untouched by human hand ( well, untouched by the shoppers anyway) What it may have been subjected to beforehand is probably best forgotten about.

I believe packaging is also related to the logistics of moving stuff from one end of the country to another - the more road/air miles the food does, the more damage is likely to occur if not embalmed in polystyrene, plastic or WHY.

I still stick by removing all unneccessary packaging and leaving it with the shop/SM along with a pithy explanation as to why you are doing this.

My apologies Hostafan knowing you may be on the losing end of this strategy