Affordable, eco-friendly flower pots — made with University of Guelph technology — have hit the market. They’re on the shelves of 2,500 Kroger stores in the United States and 33 Lowe’s stores in Canada, and soon will be featured in Home Hardware stores.

flower potJill Selby (left) and Amy Thatcher, of the Department of Plant Agriculture, are pictured here with a bio-composite flower pot made with U of G technology.

The pots contain recycled plastics and up to 30 per cent bio-fibres. They were developed by a team led by Amar Mohanty, a professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture and School of Engineering and director of U of G’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC).

The team included the U of G Catalyst Centre and industry collaborators Competitive Green Technologies and the Myers Industries Lawn and Garden Group.

The resin in the bio-composite pots is made of bio-fibres from miscanthus grasses but could also come from wood, oat hulls, soybean hulls or spent coffee grounds.

The flower pots exemplify the goal of creating new bio-resin compositions that meet or exceed the physical characteristics and price of traditional plastics, says BDDC researcher and engineering professor Manju Misra. “Not only are the bio-composite flower pots comparable to traditional oil-based flower pots in quality and in price, but they also help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

Steve De Brabandere, associate director of the Catalyst Centre, which oversees all aspects of the University’s activities in intellectual property management and technology commercialization, added that the bio-composite flower pots offer environmental consciousness and affordability. “They give consumers the option to have a lower carbon footprint without additional costs.”

The product was in development for two years, undergoing dozens of trials and revisions to arrive at the ideal resin. Misra said researchers had to continually modify the composition to achieve consistent melt flow, smell and impact strength similar to that of traditional resins.

The flower pots show that it’s possible to achieve economic parity and competitive market prices in bio-composite products, while still maintaining the mechanical characteristics of plastic, she says. “BDDC hopes to continue the trend with the development of bio-composite car components.”

BDDC opened in 2008 and its researchers are studying ways to use soy, wheat, corn and other crops to make everything from car parts and furniture to fuel. They also investigate new crops for use in composite materials.

Funding for this project was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Hannam Soybean Utilization Fund and Ontario Research Fund, and Research Excellence Round-4 from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation.