Grower Customizes Recyclable Containers to Meet Customer Demand By Joli A. Hohenstein

YC Nursery had a challenge: find a growing container that was specially configured to meet their large scale production needs, and that met the increasing demand from customers for environmentally responsible materials.

The Texas annual color grower produces more than 700,000 4-inch trays and pots plus a few quarts and gallons for spring and fall at two locations in Dallas and Prosper. Crops include petunias, pansies, lantana, purslane, lirope, grasses and more.

Many of the nursery’s customers are major landscapers — big apartment complexes and commercial contractors. Those landscaper customers, some of whom are national contractors, have a particular interest in being eco-conscious, as their customer base has been asking for it.

But what seems like a simple request on the surface became fraught with challenge, says Mike Williams, logistics manager and plastic purchasing agent. Pots were ripping coming out of the carrier trays, so plants spilled out. Containers were tearing, breaking and cutting workers as they moved them — enough so that they had to wear gloves just to handle the product.

Then YC Nursery heard about rEarth, a new line of recyclable containers made from recycled water bottles. Made from tear-resistant material, rEarth containers are cost-neutral to traditional plastic, making their price competitive to other containers. Because rEarth products are made from water bottles (rPET), they're curbside recyclable, which appeals to both growers and gardeners.

Mike found out rEarth is available in slim and standard packs, flats and round sizes plus a carry tray. But YC Nursery's needs were so specific they couldn't use any of the standard sizes. Luckily, the product can be custom designed to any size and shape to suit a business, crop or production model.

He asked rEarth manufacturer McConkey Company to design them a custom rEarth 20-count carrier with 4-inch square pots.

"We told them what we wanted to use; they built the molds," Mike says. "I got a phone call with questions, and the next thing I know, I've got samples and just need to approve."

The custom rEarth configuration has worked so well that it's now the primary pot YC Nursery uses. Next up is a 10-count quart carrier for the fall season.

YC Nursery has been particularly pleased both with rEarth's durability and flexibility. There's no tearing, and "rEarth is soft enough that there are no cuts when it breaks apart," Mike says.

Their landscaper customers particularly like it for its ease of handling. "Landscapers like that it has #1 recyclable on it, so they can throw it in any recycle bin," says Mike. "It shows they're green too, and they're promoting it to customers."