Biodegradable nursery pots benefit Kaipara programme

2 December 2023

More Kiwi innovation is adding to the progress of the Kaipara Moana Remediation Programme.

Wilson & Ross has collaborated with Scion, a Crown Research Institute, to develop a bio-based biodegradable nursery container which will offer an alternative to the estimated 350 million plastic pots produced by New Zealand nurseries annually.

Peter Wilson (pictured left) of Wilson & Ross collaborated with Scion to develop a biobased biodegradable nursery container that is helping the Kaipara Harbour restoration programme deplasticise its supply chain during the planting of native seedlings.

Creator of the product, Peter Wilson, says PolBionix is a bio-based biodegradable garden container for native seedlings. That passion around native rehabilitation and revegetation began when he first started working with Te Uri o Hau and Te Ārai Native Nursery in 2016.
Now the founder is generously donating 5,000 pots to Te Arai nurseries, 5,000 to KMR and 20,000 to Auckland Council.

Peter says he is pleased to be supporting a harbour restoration programme as significant as KMR, a sentiment held by KMR Pou Tātaki Justine Daw.

She believes the trial is an opportunity for bioplastics to deplasticise the KMR supply chain over time.

“The KMR team and our partners are working hard to improve environmental outcomes for the Kaipara Moana and this is another step in that journey. I am really pleased that an Uri-led nursery is leading the way with this,” says Justine.

Te Uri o Hau’s business development manager Sesha Perkinson says we look forward to the opportunity.

“KMR is such a significant and important area of mahi for us all and the more we can all combine to improve environmental and ecological outcomes within the Kaipara Moana catchment will make our collective kaupapa all the more effective,” says Sesha.

The pots will be used across the Kaipara Moana catchment. Planting teams and KMR Field Advisors will monitor the performance and ease of use of the pots at the time of planting, six months later and two years post-planting.

Pots can last 12 months above ground before biodegrading, with the biodegrading process starting as soon as soil is added. When planted directly in the ground, the pot provides fertiliser for the plant as the pot biodegrades.

The pots are made from bio-polymers and a bio-filler, with the bio-polymers made from sustainably grown sugarcane, cassava and corn. Peter says the bio-filler is from waste organic matter containing naturally occurring chemicals and nutrients attractive to microbes to eat.

“What that means is PolBionix biodegrades in mild environments, like in soil and under home composting conditions, and because PolBionix biodegrades and does not disintegrate there are no residual micro-plastics,” says Peter.

“PolBionix is the result of four years of research in collaboration with Crown research institute Scion, and funding support from Callaghan Innovation and Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation Fund. I am really excited to be rolling the pots out with Te Ārai Native Nursery, KMR and Auckland Council.”

Scion’s portfolio leader for Bioproducts and Packaging, Alec Foster, says Scion is proud of our collaboration developing PolBionix pots.

“Such steps are key to reducing plastic waste and, as finalists in the 2023 Sustainable Business Awards, it shows how fantastic innovation can deliver positive impacts for New Zealand.

“Supporting the PolBionix initiative aligns with Scion's vision of a greener New Zealand, showcasing our dedication to innovative, eco-friendly solutions.

"Scion's collaboration in transforming R&D into the tangible, eco-friendly PolBionix pots exemplifies our commitment to turning innovative research into real-world products for a more sustainable New Zealand.

"Wilson & Ross's pioneering PolBionix biodegradable pots mark a significant step in New Zealand's circular bioeconomy, offering a sustainable and innovative solution to drastically reduce plastic waste in our environment."