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Piles of plastic wreaths and flowers abandoned at Dundee cemetery

Sarah Proctor with abandoned wreaths

Piles of plastic flowers and wreaths abandoned at a Dundee cemetery have sparked calls for mourners to consider their use of plastic.

Memorials from the festive period have ended up among heaps of real flowers at Balgay Park, beside the cemetery.

But while natural plants are compostable, the plastic tributes will be sent to landfill.

Mourners are being asked to  consider what the memorials they leave at the graves of loved ones are made of.

Sarah Proctor, a volunteer with Lochee Community Group, is asking families if they will carefully consider what type of floral tributes and plastic packaging they take to cemeteries.Sarah Proctor at Balgay Cemetery.

Sarah said: “I was out walking  yesterday and passed the rubbish heap in Balgay Park beside the cemetery.

“It’s covered in fake poinsettias.

“The council workers have obviously done their sweep to clear all the Christmas tributes but these artificial ones, along with all the tinsel-covered hoops and plastic frames, will sit there in landfill for centuries, only for folk to buy new ones next year that will be binned again.”

Reuse wreaths

Sarah said while she completely understands the desire to leave a floral tribute, she hopes relatives will consider the environment when purchasing them, or think about taking them home to reuse the following year.

Sarah said: “I would like to say to people, it’s lovely that you show your loved one they are remembered, especially at Christmas, but please come back and take home your plastic wreath – then it will be fine to use next year.

“By April, it will be looking pretty faded and tatty and need a bit of work to look presentable again – and not many people are going to bother doing that.”

She added  that perhaps people could  buy or make a natural wreath, and plant bulbs on the grave to come up in the spring.

Wreaths and fake flowers for outdoor use are also available and last longer.

Sarah said: “I realise there is a cost difference with natural versus artificial flowers, but even a wee bunch of evergreen branches at Christmas would be so much nicer than something that you know is going to last forever in a heap of rubbish.”

Discarded wreaths.

Funeral flowers

Single use plastic such as ribbons is also commonplace among funeral flowers.

Sarah said: “We had a family funeral last week and when I was ordering our tribute, the florist asked if I wanted ribbon and I said no.

“Seeing the ones dumped on the tip in Balgay, I’m glad – all that single use plastic.

“We are intending to take back our frame once the flowers have faded, and re-use it in future.

“Again, few folk will do that, so there is definitely an onus on the floristry industry to stop churning out and offering all this non-biodegradable stuff.”

Sarah said she had  discovered that big florists like Interflora and Bunches are  making an effort to reduce their use of plastic.

She said: “They are using paper or biodegradable cellophane and recycled ribbon.

“There seems to be a gulf between people who are trying to cut down on throwaway plastic, and other people who are maybe having a really tough time in their life and considerations like that are a luxury, especially when they’ve just lost someone they love.

“But for them, saving the tinsel wreath to re-use next year totally makes sense cost-wise too.

“I’ve even seen Astroturf mats on some graves. My family are getting strict instructions – not even over my dead body.”

Reducing waste

Lochee Community Group is aiming to reduce waste and reduce household items being sent to landfill

She said: “At Lochee Community Group we aim to reduce waste and save household items from being sent to landfill.

“We refurbish them if needed and pass them on at low or no cost to people in need. We also run skills projects such as sewing and woodwork, mending and repurposing donated items.

“We are in the middle of sorting out new premises, and still can’t accept any new donations just now, but we hope to have these projects up and running again soon.”

Readily available options

Linda Sterry service manager at support service Funeral Link pointed out when families are grieving it can be difficult to consider environmental impacts.

“We often offer clients to use one of our re-useable floral tributes, saving the family money but also playing our part to help protect our environment,” she said.

“When someone we love dies it can be so difficult to cope during the days that follow and often we operate on auto-pilot so often the floral choices and particularly the impact on our environment are not uppermost in our minds.

“It would be great if there were more environmentally friendly options readily available.”

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