You can Plant this Biodegradable Flower Pot Directly in Your Yard

The pot is made from paper manufacturing waste and designed to naturally break down in soil.

Aug 19, 2019

(Natalia Melnychuk /  

Summer is ending, and the kids are going back to school. But your green thumb does not need to rest; it's not too late to plant late summer flowers like Mums and Impatiens.

If you buy your flowers or plants in a nursery, they will most likely come in a hard-plastic pot that needs to be tossed after you replant your purchase because the pots aren't meant to go into the ground. This practice also makes gardening dirty and messy.

Now, there is a new type of flower pot that you can put directly into your yard without having to remove the plant first. That's because this unique pot is designed to slowly break down in the soil.

“We’re developing plastics that can biodegrade, which just means that different microorganisms in either soil or compost can consume them like food,” Tony Bova, CEO and cofounder of Mobius told Fast Company. Mobius is part of the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator that works in partnership with the Nature Conservancy to make agriculture more sustainable. 

The new flowerpot is the first product made primarily from lignin, a waste product from the paper industry. As it biodegrades in your yard, it actually adds carbon to the soil. It is designed to be carbon negative and helps fight climate change because it sequesters more carbon than it creates in the manufacturing process and in shipping the product to nurseries.

Most paper mills burned lignin to create energy, but as the cost of other energy dropped, and paper sales declined, the paper industry began to look at other ways to use waste material. Bova began working with it as a doctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee. “Lignin itself is a polymer,” he said. “It’s similar to plastics that we’re familiar with now, except it’s naturally produced by a tree.”

Lignin, unlike other plant-based materials that are used to make biodegradable plastics, doesn't use resources like land and water that could be used to produce food.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to use any sort of organic matter to make new materials and chemicals,” Bova said. “But if it means that we have to find more land to grow more crops that could be used to feed people, or use up arable land, we’re kind of just trading one bad thing for another.”

The startup is working on optimizing the formula and the final design of the pot. In a recent manufacturing trial, Mobius produced a few hundred pounds of the material and will begin a pilot with greenhouse growers that sell to a major plant retailer.

Future versions could include nutrients to feed the plants and replace fertilizers. They are also looking to make other materials other than plastics from Lignin. “We want to be able to continue to develop new technologies that take waste and turn it into a valuable thing,” Bova said.

If this product can be produced at scale it could become very popular as a cleaner, more environmentally friendly and sustainable way to plant a home garden while making it easy for greenhouse growers to go green.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.