RHS plastics policy

As an environmental charity, we are committed to reducing the use of plastic across all of our operations and helping the UK’s 27 million gardeners reduce their environmental impact

Encouraging reuse of plant pots and trays

Plant pots and trays are perhaps the most visible plastic waste within horticulture. Since 2003 we have strongly encouraged their recycling and reuse across our Gardens, Shows and retail centres.

We have also undertaken trials in our Gardens and funded research into alternatives to plastics. Practical usability and production issues remain key stumbling blocks to their introduction and something that requires more research. However, we are encouraged by recent developments in alternative products and will continue to look into their use across the Society.

RHS magazines mailed in paperwrap

The Garden magazine in its paper wrap

In 2018 we began experimenting with alternatives to the lightweight, recyclable plastic packaging our magazines were distributed in.

In early 2019 both The Orchid Review and The Plantsman were mailed to subscribers in a paper envelope.

The Garden magazine was first posted to members in paper in March 2019. With more than 450,000 copies distributed, a significant investment from the RHS was required to support the experimental technology that underpins the wrapping and issuing process. 

By adopting paper wrapping for our magazines, the RHS has removed 5.25 million items of single use plastic a year.

Trialing alternatives to single use plastics 

​The RHS is committed to staff and visitors using biodegradable materials where possible and we continue to trial hemp, bamboo and recycled bottles and alternatives to the plastic lanyards required for access to our gardens and events throughout the year.

Plastic grass 

The RHS always recommends that gardeners use real grass, which is available in a range of hardy mixes and suitable for most situations. We recognise that permeable landscape materials, including plastic grass, can offer a substitute in very high wear situations or where mobility and access is an issue, and there is no alternative to real grass.  

We know that grass can mitigate flooding, cool the environment, support wildlife, produce vital oxygen and promote health and wellbeing when maintained correctly and urge gardeners to overlook small scale problems such as yellowing, bare patches, moss and weeds; all of which can be addressed if bothersome with minimal cost and effort.

Providing paper bags at our gift shops

We use paper bags in the gift shops at our Gardens and – as these can split when wet – we use recycled plastic bags in our plant centres. We also ask customers and visitors to bring their own bags for purchases made at our Shows and Gardens.

Banning plastic straws at our Shows and the RHS Garden Wisley restaurant

In 2018 we made the decision to ban plastic straws at all of our main Shows – Cardiff, Chelsea, Chatsworth, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. Likewise, at Wisley, our flagship garden, we have swapped plastic straws for paper and rolled out the use of biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery made from corn starch – a green alternative to polystyrene. We are now looking to do the same at the remainder of our Gardens.

Commercial deliveries 

We have moved to buying products in bulk to reduce wrapping and reuse this packaging wherever we can.

Working towards industry-wide change

We will also continue working with partners from the gardening industry – as part of the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group – to help drive change.

Published: 23 February 2018 
Updated: 10 July 2019

How to go plastic free in your garden

Plastic is really useful in the garden but it comes at a cost to the environment and wildlife. Luckily there are many alternatives, and sometimes they're better for your plants too.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.