8 Recycled seed starter containers from single use plastic

It's almost time to put the seedlings in the garden, and if you're like me you started some of them weeks ago. I'm very frugal when it comes to a lot of things and seed starting is no different. Now, I know I'm not the first one to use old plastic containers to start seeds in. Not only is it a common idea, but it's so very practical. Especially with single use plastic!

Plastic seed staring containers with plants growing in them

Our lives are so full of plastic that designed to be used exactly once, that it just makes sense to reuse it in any way we can. Now I know my seed starting area is not perfectly lined up with same size plant cells and trays, but I save money and maybe help save the planet a little too. Win-win!

Besides, have you ever seen the prices on seed starting trays? They can go from $1 for a small 6 cell tray to up to $15 each for a larger one! That's just crazy if you ask me, especially since we throw away so many perfectly usable plastic containers all the time. 

So today I want to share with you a few of my favorite recycled seed starting containers.

Recycled seed starter containers

Before buying anything to start seeds in, look around your house. Chances are you already have plenty of containers you can use!

Yogurt containers: 

My daughter and I are huge yogurt eaters and with the most recent coupons and sales I have gotten a ton of yogurt lately. I especially like the ones that have their own individual lids, they really do look like mini greenhouses. Yogurts come in different sizes which makes it nice for starting different types of seeds....and they fit easily on any size window sill.

Single serve dessert plastic:

I'm also a huge fan of these individual desserts from Walmart. They are SO good, plus they come in clear plastic containers with clear tops. It's easy enough to cut small holes in the bottom of the containers for drainage and they are the perfect size for seedlings! This tomato plant was transferred into this plastic cup where it will live for the next month or so. 

Dessert in plastic containers on left, seedling growing in the same plastic container on right

Tomato plants get buried up to their leaves, so deep containers are a must! There's plenty of room in these dessert cups for the roots to grow and the container is wide enough that I won't have to transfer to a different pot before planting. 

Glass jars:

If you get the little glass jars of French yogurt they are also great for small plants, though they probably do better as succulent containers than seed starters. Seed starting containers need really good drainage to prevent dampening off disease and fungus gnats, and these glass containers don't have any drainage at all. I also use the small glass dessert dishes. 

Small jelly or jam jars will work too. Just add some pebbles in the bottom to help with drainage and don't overwater!

Bakery clamshell containers: 

The next container option includes a confession. I have a bit of a Sam's club cupcake addiction! The 4 large compartments on these cupcake containers make it great to start cluster type seeds like watermelon or cucumber. I put 3 or 4 in the middle of each section and there is plenty of room for the whole grouping to grow!

seed starting containers

Egg cartons: 

I like to use egg cartons for herbs. One of these takes up a whole lot less space the 18 individual pots. It takes a bit of work to cut the foil tops off and clean out the tiny cups, but these also save a lot of space on the heat mat! They can grow a few weeks before you need to transplant them to a larger pot.

seed starting containers, recycle project


I sometimes use eggshells to start seeds in, but usually only herbs or flowers. The smaller the container, the smaller the plants you'll want to start in them. Here is a fun project for children: Google eyed egg people. Let your kids draw faces on the eggs before planting the seeds in them. Add googly eyes, rhinestone noses and more. Once the plants grow they tend to look like green hair. 


I also use empty K-cups as mini seedling pots. I use mushroom containers and take out and microwave food containers...pretty much anything plastic and somewhat bowl shaped. 

Styrofoam take out containers:

With the recent surge of people picking up take out food instead of dining in at restaurants, most of us have had out hands on these disposables lately! Styrofoam soup cups are the largest, but even the plastic condiment cups can work for smaller plants or flowers that will be transplanted early.

If you are set on having commercial seed starting trays, check flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales. I have a few sets of plastic pots/holders that I picked up for $1 at a yard sale. Also check the clearance section at stores with garden centers in mid summer, they usually mark them down drastically once seed starting season is over.

I also save every single pot that transplants come in when I buy plants at the garden center. I can get several uses out of them before they start to wear and break apart.

Take a look around and see what you have on hand. I'm sure you can come up with something to reuse instead of throw out!


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  1. Love your repurposing! We also use eggshells, toilet paper rolls and tin cans. I recently did a post on this topic. Best wishes with your seedlings!

    1. I saw the eggshell idea! I might try that for herbs. Thanks!


  2. Great way to recycle. Thanks for sharing on the HomeAcre Hop. Come back and visit us this week: http://everythinghomewithcarol.com/self-sufficient-homeacre-hop-4/

  3. Great ideas! I used newspaper pots for the first time this year and really like them, much more than toilet paper roll which fell apart on me.

    Thanks for joining The Creative HomeAcre Blog Hop. Hope to see you again this Sunday!