When old pool covers wear out, thousands of homeowners across the country simply throw them away. But for 30 years, Roy Reed has been putting them to another use.
“I’ve been using pool covers as a ground cover in my gardening,” said the owner of Memphis Pool in Memphis, Tenn. “I just slice a long slit for a row crop, or cut out an opening for a plant like a tomato. It eliminates weeding, not to mention all the water that’s conserved by the moisture the covers hold.”
Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Memphis Urban Garden Program, Reed has discovered a home for all the pool covers he can find, as well as the hundreds of buckets, barrels and other plastic products he gathers up. Grace Perry, an assistant with the program, puts the items to new uses in urban gardens throughout the city of Memphis.
“We recycle everything we can find,” Perry said, “and we teach recycling to all our gardeners, in over 2,500 gardens across the city. We’d been reusing plastic tarps and furniture wraps for ground cover during the winter, but it was really exciting when [Reed] approached us. He was surprised that somebody wanted these used pool covers. And I was saying, ‘Yes, yes. Of course, we do.’”
Long before urban gardening became a popular hobby, Reed was encouraging friends and customers to take home the covers and various plastic containers he gathered from job sites, or happened to find around town.
Perry and the gardeners have found a whole new range of handy ways to use the containers, however. “Those buckets are perfect for catching rainwater,” she said. “They’re also perfect for storing horse manure.”
Perhaps the most creative innovation is Perry’s way of reusing 100-pound chlorine drums. “Not everyone has the strength to turn a tumbler, or turn compost with a pitchfork” she explained. “But if they fill a barrel with compost and turn it on its side, they can roll it back and forth with a cane if they need to, and it never has to be stirred by hand — simple.”
This partnership isn’t the only one inspired by the idea of recycling pool products. Jim Jacobsmeyer, president of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association’s Houston Chapter, has been working with Rampak Recycling to salvage 12,000-pound loads of buckets and other recyclables from pool companies across Houston. IPSSA members maintain special dumpsters called “pans” at locations citywide and alert Rampak when they’ve gathered enough plastic for a full load.
Whether it’s covers, buckets or miscellaneous plastics, the trend of recycling and reusing pool products continues to gain popularity. Thanks to organizations such as MUGP and Rampak, it’s becoming easier than ever for the industry to find new homes for so-called junk.
“I’m a scavenger,” Perry said. “I try to have a spot for everything I find to be in. Our goal is to make sure nothing ends up in a landfill.”