NEWS: National Trust grows sponges

A type of cucumber vine is being trialled as a sponge alternative by The National Trust in Devon as they look to reduce plastic waste.

The team at the Knightshayes estate have harvested their first crop of loofahs - which serve as a plant-based, organic and biodegradable 'sponge'.

The team say it will stop them from buying plastic or cloth kitchen pads and scourers in the future.

A spokesperson for the estate said: "Never ones to shy away from a challenge, last year our kitchen garden team took on the opportunity to grow loofahs, after - in a mind blowing moment in the office - we discovered they come from plants.

"Along with many people, some of us here thought loofahs are sea sponges, however, it turns out they’re actually the fruit of Luffa cylindrica, a vine in the cucumber family.

"Once they’ve matured, a few simple steps turns them into sponges that are great for cleaning dishes- enabling us to become more sustainable.

"When they're ready, extra sponges not needed by the team here for washing up the millions of cups of tea we drink daily will be sold in the kitchen garden shop."

The National Trust say the loofahs are 'very easy to grow' and 'suitable for any garden', even suggesting it is "the same as growing courgettes".

The team grew 30 fruit which they cut into segments and created 50 washing up sponges - and now plan to grow more this year.

The spokesperson added: "We hope what we are doing at Knightshayes will inspire others to think about creative, simple ways they can reduce their everyday impact on the environment."

The National Trust aims to eliminate most single-use plastics from its sites by 2022.

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