Shed clearing – musing on plastic

Last weekend we cleared out the garden shed. It was in dire need. Here are some ‘after’ pics. I couldn’t face a ‘before’ one. You’ll just have to imagine the disordered piles of plant pots, bits of useful stuff, rusty tools and endless reams of plastic sheeting that ‘might be useful one day’.

When I say, ‘we cleared out the shed’, I mean that my husband decided it was time to repot some houseplants and needed to reach the pots at the back. In order to do so, he needed to take everything out of the shed, so that I could put it back more tidily*. That may seem extreme – it was – but he did help by arranging everything in ordered piles all round the garden. Again, you’ll just have to imagine this as I couldn’t bear to take a photograph. I would not have done it this way . In fact I wouldn’t have done it at all. I would have continued climbing over the terrible piles of stuff for another ten years or so. *Please note that this is my shed and my mess, in case you were wondering. He doesn’t have his own one – it is just that I am the gardener, not him.

We were both pleasantly surprised to find that there were:

  • very few really useless things
  • only one broken garden fork
  • not very many long discarded children’s toys
  • and, crucially, no dead mice or other disintegrating creatures

What there was an awful lot of though, was plastic: plastic pots, plastic plant trays, plastic netting, clear polythene, black plastic sheeting, empty compost bags, dozens of plastic plant labels (made from old yoghurt pots etc – see here), cut off plastic bottles.

I had been saving all of these things in the off chance that they might be useful one day, rather than chucking them out or recycling them. I found it rather dispiriting. To be fair only a very small amount of all this plastic had been deliberately bought by me – some of the plastic netting perhaps. Everything else was cast-offs from other purchases: plant pots when I had bought plants, packaging for household purchases, plastic food containers, that kind of thing. There was also quite a lot of black plastic, cut-offs from when I made the garden pond.

I had kept all this stuff in the hope that it would be useful one day. Some of it clearly is. I reuse the plastic plant pots every year for growing seedlings and repotting tomatoes etc. Now that they have been tidied up I will be able to do so more efficiently. I’ve kept some of the polythene sheeting for covering plants in the cold spring or autumn and a small bag of black plastic, still imagining that I’ll find a use for it one day. I’ve reorganised all the plant labels so that I can find them and reuse them.

Some of it had to go. Plastic plant trays which, I remember now, were given to me by a kindly relative twenty-seven years ago when we got our first garden, were all cracked and broken but had done quite well, considering. The food packaging and ‘useful’ bits of stuff has gone in the recycling bin where possible and, sadly, in the landfill bin where not.

I’m rather proud of this plastic bucket – an ancestral item from my parents’ house and probably sixty years old. It has a crack which means it is no use as a bucket but it was decorated by me and a toddler over twenty years ago with pictures of flowers and trains and other toddler delights. It still sits inside the door, holding all my hand tools for easy access:

What I learned from this is that it is worth keeping plastic and endlessly reusing it but I need to keep it a bit more organised so that I can see when the supply is far outstripping my demand. It would be good to try and decrease the plastic coming in – and I will keep trying.

I’ve managed to make some things look orderly – I hope you like the neat row of garden gloves hanging on clothes pegs, and the reuse of my brother’s ancient school woodwork project for storing my most often used tools: trowel, secateurs, kneeling pad (ok it is a children’s one but it does the trick to protect my ancient knees very well):

The beloved lawnmower is there on the left of the picture, more easily accessible than it was before the great tidy out.

Meanwhile, you’ll see that I have kept some of the children’s toys – you never know when swingball might be useful for encouraging a grown up musician to work off some excess energy – and I’ve kept all those contorted wooden tennis rackets and some bits of a broken wooden croquet set because I just might think of an artistic use for them one day…

7 thoughts on “Shed clearing – musing on plastic

  1. It is very hard not to get submerged by plastic in the garden shed. Everything seems to come in plastic. At least I get my bird food in paper sacks now which is a small improvement.

  2. Well done ! I cleared my plastic crates earlier in the Spring. A box of plant food had disintegrated and leaked everywhere. Was a bit sad to throw away plant labels of plants I loved but died along the years.

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