Floriculture and gardening

The floriculture and gardening industries are actively reducing the amount of packaging they use. Over the past few years, companies have invested heavily in reducing the amount of cardboard used, both in consumer and transport packaging. A great deal of energy is also put into the use of recycled materials, reducing the use of plastic by making films as thin as possible, and into reusable alternatives for single-use plastic plant trays and flowerpots.

Trends and challenges

The most important developments influencing packaging in the floriculture and gardening industry are:

  • Ambitions of governments and companies to introduce reusable and recyclable packaging.

    Packaging must comply with the applicable laws and regulations. In recent years, the European Commission and the Dutch government have introduced and adopted new proposals and are implementing action programmes, among other things to increase the recyclability and reuse of packaging and to reduce the amount of waste. Keep abreast of these developments so that you can respond to future legislation in a timely manner and so that your company can distinguish itself from other companies as a frontrunner in the field of sustainability. KIDV keeps track of changes in legislation and regulations, such as the new recycling targets, adjustments to the essential requirements for packaging and the approach to single-use plastics, and translates these developments into practice for packaging. Click here for more information (only available in Dutch). 

    KIDV has developed recycle checks with which companies can assess for themselves whether a package is recyclable under the current system.

  • Using recycled materials in plastic packaging.

    The application of recyclate in packaging ensures that less virgin material is needed. In the ornamental horticulture and garden sector, there are many opportunities for the application of plastic recyclate, because this packaging does not have to meet the requirements for food packaging. Recyclate is currently sorted into streams of PET, PP, PE, DKR 350 and foil/film. Plastic packaging is not (yet) colour-sorted, with the result that different colours remain mixed (extra info only available in Dutch). As a result, recyclate often has a dark grey colour. This dark colour makes the production of brightly coloured products from 100% recycled plastic challenging. Many packaging materials in this sector have a dark colour, such as plant pots and bags of garden soil, so the use of recyclate is very promising for the sector. Commissioned by KIDV, Tilburg University investigated the possible bottlenecks in legislation and regulations regarding the use of recycled plastic (only available in Dutch).
  • Using biobased plastics in packaging.

    The application of bio-based packaging materials is also happening in this sector. Paper and cardboard are well-known bio-based packaging materials. There are different types of bio-based plastics. The molecular structure of some of them is the same as that of fossil plastics. These bio-based plastics can be mixed with fossil plastics in recycling and have the same properties, such as melting temperature or air permeability. An example of this is bio-PE, which is made from sugar cane and is used in HDPE bottles, among other things.

    There are also plastics made from renewable raw materials that have a different molecular structure than the conventional fossil plastics. They therefore have different properties. Some variants are, for instance, compostable or allow more oxygen to pass through, which makes them especially suitable for packaging certain fruit and vegetables. Examples are PLA and starch. PLA is used in trays and foils and starch in plastic bags.

    Read more about biobased and compostable packaging here.

  • Reusing and standardising packaging.

    The transport packaging (single-use and multi-use cardboard flower boxes and plastic plant trays) is standardised as much as possible, in order to optimise recycling and reuse.

    Click here for more information about reusable packaging.

  • Growing online sales (e-commerce).

    Flowers and plants are still hardly sold online. This changes the moment they can be properly distributed. One of the challenges here is the transport packaging, which protects the living material during the delivery phase. In time, the sale of garden products will grow online and the amount of packaging will also increase. Then look for sustainability opportunities in the whole process. Sustainable packaging is not only about using less material. You also make packaging more sustainable if you make sure that raw materials are not wasted during production. If the packaging is tailor-made for the product that has to be transported in it. If it consists of renewable or recycled materials as much as possible. If sustainable technologies and sustainable energy are used in production. And when the logistics are organised as efficiently as possible, so that no unnecessary air is transported. Click here for information on sustainability in the e-commerce sector.

Getting started with sustainable packaging

Anyone who starts working with sustainable packaging will often quickly discover that there is more to it than just using less or different material. To develop successful sustainable packaging, you have to look at the packaging process and logistics, at customers’ purchasing and disposal behaviour, and at your company’s packaging and sustainability strategy. For more information and tips, visit the KIDV Five Perspectives on Sustainable Packaging.

The Dutch Association of Flower Auctions (VBN) and sector organisation Tuinbranche Nederland have both drawn up a 2019-2022 Industry Plan for Sustainable Packaging in close collaboration with KIDV. These plans set out ambitions, objectives, and concrete measures to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, such as by using less material in packaging and by making packaging fully recyclable and reusable.

Decision tree Sustainable Packaging

Greenport West-Holland, in collaboration with KIDV and Partners for Innovation, has drawn up a decision tree to help entrepreneurs in the floriculture industry to make their packaging more sustainable. The decision tree helps to set goals and to choose the right strategy. Those who go through it step by step will arrive at a suitable choice of packaging, whether it is primary (consumer packaging), secondary (transport packaging) or tertiary packaging (for loading and transport). Along the way, companies receive information on topics such as the different functions of packaging, recycling and reuse, the logistics chain, the Sustainable Packaging Sectoral Plan, European and national packaging policies (including those of other countries) and legislation and regulations. The decision tree can be downloaded free of charge from

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