Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Pickup Truck And the Devil's Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about compost. Though the Solstice is behind us the dead of winter lies ahead. Our composter feels very full and I wonder how much decomposition takes place inside the barrel on these cold days. Even so: it's easy to find other places to put coffee grounds and asparagus stems, so I don't really worry. Thus, I am thinking now about paper, especially paper that comes through the mail, now that seed catalogs have begun to arrive. I heard a rumor weeks ago that recycling was unprofitable in the current economy but today we see proof.
People are still putting their bins of recyclables out on curbs. But the recyclable materials market, which was booming only a few months ago, has dropped sharply, along with the worldwide economy, creating a backlog of materials at processing plants.

Reduced demand for used paper, plastic bottles, glass, and metal cans has caused prices to plummet, surprising even those who have followed the ups and downs of the recycling market.

"We have seen drastic changes in market values, faster than I've seen since I've been in industry back to the 1980s," said Foster, who said the value of recyclables was about 70 percent less on average than two months ago. "A lot of it, you can't move right now."

Foster said the recycling plant is still sorting and bundling about 400 tons of paper per day, but it's more difficult to sell.

Now is the time then to insist on products from recycled materials. I have a game I play now: How Can I Reuse This? Sometimes I win, like when I buy eggs in recycled cardboard containers, then pulverize eggshells and cardboard for compost. Sometimes I lose, like when I buy something in that plastic packaging that might actually prevent me from using what I purchased. You know what I'm talking about. On late night commercials, hucksters hawk gadgets to get you into that plastic packaging, creating an odd circle-of-life that ends with you doubling the stuff in your whatsit drawer. Anyway, if I wash and reuse Ziploc bags once each, I cut my use of bags in half. I'm still adding stuff to the landfill at an impressive rate. So what about all this paper that comes to the house, if recycling is going nowhere? Can I compost it? Some of it, yes.
Shredding and composting documents is a great way to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands and it can help soak up excess water if the compost heap is too wet.

Shredding paper that has been used for bedding for small pets such as hamsters is ok to compost too.

Avoid shiny paper or shiny coloured prints though.

It had never occurred to me until today to buy a shredder, mostly because I don't own much of anything and thought municipal recycling would take care of paper. Now I see that envelopes and notices could be useful in our attempts to fertilize the soil in which we're growing our vegetables and herbs. Hmm.



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