In the first of a series of interviews on upcycling, Pro Landscaper talks with Morgan Griffin, managing director at Plughole Planters. Morgan discusses the innovative ways they upcycle disused bathtubs and sinks into planters, drinks chillers and ponds. Their exciting projects have helped both their local community and the environment, they were also awarded the New Environmental Enterprise of the Year award at the 2018 Echo Environment Awards.
Why did you decide to upcycle disused bathtubs and kitchen sinks?
We refurbished our old bathroom and the bathtub was being removed. Once it was removed it was sitting at the side of our house waiting to go to the recycling centre. Instead of letting it go to waste we put some wood around it and made it into an herb garden. However, what we noticed about it was that the plants were exceptional! The plants retained water and the soil stayed warmer, they grew amazingly. This sparked the idea of Plughole Planters.
Once we had this idea we wanted to do more research into it, we worked with an intern from Lancaster University who did an in-depth study. The study found that 2.4 million acrylic baths go to waste every year, and the same amount of shower trays. This was for domestic use only and did not include the likes of hotels who refurbish their bathrooms.
How have your products benefited your local community?
Our local council, Sefton, posted on Twitter that somebody had fly-tipped a bathtub on a pavement next to a bin. We contacted Sefton council and organised for them to retrieve it from the pavement, we then collected it from them. The bathtub was upcycled into a beautiful planter and donated to North Park Community Gardens in Sefton, to grow vegetables for the local community. It has become part of an inclusion project for disadvantaged and disabled people.
The local hospital is also creating a rehabilitation garden for patients who are long term and have nowhere nice to go with their families when they come to visit. For the garden two planters were created and given to the hospital at cost price.
Our projects are not only great for saving waste and brightening up a garden, but they can also be used for safety. Plughole Planters partnered with Veolia to upscale a corner bath in Merseyside that could be used as a bollard. The planter is situated on a pedestrian walkway on the corner of a road where cars would frequently cut the corner. It was becoming a safety issue; the planter was placed to stop cars being able to cut the corner and coming onto the pavement.
Aside from helping your local community, what are other benefits of upcycling?
As part of the report the intern completed, it was quantified that by the nature of preventing waste, and the process it would have to go through as a piece of waste, every planter that is made saves 33kg of CO2 going into the atmosphere. Therefore, our products are classed as carbon negative, meaning that it has a positive impact on the environment and could also be used for carbon credit.
The baths and sinks can also be upcycled into many things aside from planters. They can be made into drinks chillers, ponds, fountains and fish ponds. The benefits of upcycling are endless, from being environmentally friendly to helping local communities and creating interesting pieces of furniture and planters.
What are your plans for the future?
In the future we are looking at getting involved with WaterAid projects in Africa as well as flood prevention in the UK. We believe that if we can transport the bathtubs to Africa they will work as clean water receptacles, as well as being ideal for growing plants. This is a project that will need a lot of testing, but we are passionate to make it work. We are also working with a few people on flood defences, using our unique design to regulate the water flow and to prevent the water going into the drains.
For more information on Plughole Planters visit: www.plugholeplanters.co.uk