Jenny Mollison: Coming round to merits of circular economy

Raspberry canes can be reused as supports for peas and beans

Raspberry canes can be reused as supports for peas and beans

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IT’S well known that allotment people are past masters in re-using and recycling.

In a world where built-in obsolescence is a feature of so many everyday items, it’s heartening that allotmenteers are so resourceful.

Just now, my kitchen and sitting room are shrouded in dust as some replastering with traditional lime takes place. When the plasterer told me that a palletload of material was arriving, I was more excited about the prospect of the pallet than the sacks on top of it. Pallets can be turned into excellent compost containers with a few nails and some angle irons.

Years ago, our domestic rubbish bins were made of wire mesh enclosing a replaceable bin bag. They didn’t work well but the wire containers were easily sawn in two vertically to be reused to protect emerging seedlings from birds. There are dozens of them in use on our site. I suspect that some users of them will be unaware of their origin.

One plotholder has a source of wooden crates used by vegetable wholesalers for transporting melons and pumpkins. He gave me one which I am using to keep wire netting and canes tidy.

I’ve recently been introduced to the concept of a circular economy, sometimes called closed loop thinking. The idea behind this is that nothing is wasted in the production process and when a product comes to the end of its life, its components are reused again and again and finally biodegrade. This is nothing new to plotholders on allotments.

Saving seed to use next year is a good example. All those vegetables that have run to seed can be dried off and the seeds put in envelopes for next year. It’s more than just saving your money. If the crops have done well this year, it makes sense to try them again next year. At the recent Dundee Flower and Food Festival I noticed how many of the winning exhibitors said that their produce 
was grown from their own saved seed.

My second example of the circular economy is how we make compost. With a bit of help from bacteria and other living organisms, almost all the vegetable waste will eventually rot down for reuse, maintaining the soil’s fertility. Even twiggy stems such as old raspberry canes find a new life as supports for peas and beans on my plot. Fallen leaves degrade into glorious leaf mould.

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