(A bit of context. This blog will feature regular reviews of books, horticultural products, and interesting related items, under this proviso. All items reviewed will be purchased by the reviewer in advance, at full retail price, in order to prevent any conflict of interest. Information about upcoming releases is greatly appreciated, but receipt of advance copies or samples will be announced well in advance and will not influence the final review. The world has enough Jeff Craigs and Maria Salases as it is.)
It all started innocently enough. The main newsfeed at Yahoo! tends to run all sorts of blue-sky notices and proposals on potential inventions and products, and I was intrigued by one that told the story of a company that promised to augment recycled plastics with chicken feathers for horticultural materials. That’s how I came across Eastern BioPlastics and its new horticulture containers.
It’s pretty easy to assume that the old Scot frugality struck again, and I only thought of the reuse of chicken feathers as something besides pillow stuffing and cattle feed. (Honest to Elvis, chicken feathers are used as filler for cattle feed, along with all sorts of other detritus. It’s a statement on the inefficiency of the bovine digestive system that only about 2 to 4 percent of a typical steer’s food intake goes toward body weight.) If you’ve ever had to pluck your own chickens for any reason, you can understand the horror, the horror, of one chicken’s output. The idea of encasing all of that in plastic takes care of a trauma nearly thirty years old.
What’s interesting about the process, though, is that the Eastern BioPlastics process doesn’t just chop up feathers and mix it with plastic to make the final product. Instead, it extracts the keratin, the natural polymer behind feathers, rhinoceros horns, and human fingernails, and mixes it at a 30/70 ratio with recycled horticultural plastics. Reading that, a thousand years of Riddells howled in glee.
The real proof of the pumpkin is in the squeezing, as a fellow countryman once said, and abstract discussion of the merits of these horticultural containers only goes so far without a test sample. That’s why I wrote to Eastern BioPlastics and put in an order. A case of 4-inch pots, equalling 240 of them, costs $24 US. Combine that with approximately $20 for shipping and handling, and my $44 got me a pretty damn impressive box full of pots.
The thing to consider with these pots are that they’re THICK. Specifically, they’re extremely thick-walled, which is a major asset as far as I’m concerned. I’ve gotten sick and tired of pots thin enough that they practically melt and deform off the heat from my breath. In Texas sun, this is not an abstract issue, as vacuum-formed containers won’t last for long under a typical summer assault from our daystar. This isn’t an issue with the Eastern BioPlastics pots, as I’ve had pots in full day and afternoon sun for the last two months that still look almost new.
Cosmetics aside, the real test is in strength and flexibility. In this case, these pots beat out just about every 4-inch pot I’ve come across before now. They won’t handle my standing on them, but that’s because I weigh 100 kilos. Squish them hard enough, and they will crack. However, since I need them to be filled with moist long-fiber sphagnum moss for Nepenthes propagation, I’m perfectly happy with their available strength.
At this point, I’m getting ready for a major Nepenthes repotting effort, so I’ll probably go through about half of my current stock of EBP pots before the end of next weekend. After that, I’m getting ready for a major hot pepper propagation effort, and that should take care of the rest. At that time, I’m definitely willing to pay a little extra for the bioplastics pots. As soon as EPB starts offering larger containers, such as hanging baskets and one-gallon propagation containers, I’m ordering without hesitation, and if EPB starts offering propagation trays with the same qualities, I’ll put in an order right now. As soon as EPB works out a method to use a larger quantity of keratin in its products, I guarantee you that my departed paternal ancestors will wave their claymores in salute. And so it goes.