Not everyone has the space, time or interest to maintain a compost pile. Even if you do, those of us living in cities don’t add protein based foods (meat, dairy, fish) to our piles because they attract unwanted rodents and other animals (our chocolate lab finds the pile irresistable). Still trying to figure out if the polyesters bits in dryer lint that I throw in my compost are small enough to be of no harm but was interested that scientists feel that compost cannot yet be generated artificially 🙂
If you’re fortunate enough to live in an environmentally aware community, you may be given the option to separate your plant- and animal-based (bio)waste for separate recycling/composting. I have designated “garden compost” and “street compost” containers.
In our renovation 17 years ago had a drawer custom made for garden compost into which goes vegetable matter: waste fruit & veggies, tea bags, floor dirt, old pillow feathers, lawnmower clippings and shredded paper, to name a few. That is now goes daily to my “garden compost”. Great for the plants and I don’t have to pay for it.
About 5 years ago local residents were given special covered buckets and encouraged to fill them with all food scraps (I keep the veggie matter for my “garden compost” but put the meat, bones, seafood and food-infused paper products for “street compost”. I soon replaced the bucket with a commercially available container that seals out bugs and smells. We line the container with bio-compostable bags and place the full bags in a designated streeetside rolling bin, along with our garden clippings, that then go to the municipal composting facility that is able to speed-compost with high heat.
Even tightly sealed lined containers can be both SMELLY and attracts FLIES. Not to be deterred, our local waste management company, Recology, suggests:
Sprinkle baking soda if it starts to smell.
Deter flies with citrus, lavender, eucalyptus or lemongrass oils by placing a few drops on a cloth and leaving it inside or on top of the pail.
If your community needs to come up to speed in the composting arena, contact your local elected officials and ask them adress “compostables waste management” in the next waste management contract cycle. Refer them to Recology or other waste management companies with a good track record on how to implement a successful program.Composting, Gardening, Recycle | Comment (0)
Recently an email came through decrying that produce was grown in human poop and that Chinese suspend chicken wire crates over the fish ponds and the fish with their shit. While this sounds sensational, in truth, human manure was a standard farming nutrient prior to the flush toilet.
I am not overly concerned about chicken poop or people poop – where do people think dirt comes from? it’s worm & bug poop (also known as castings). The “Circle of Life” is not just a cute song from the Lion King – creatures eat predominantly other creatures – bones, stomachs, poop and all. Cows & horses poop on the land that grows the grass that they soon graze on. Human poop starts as food and is simply food that has been burned as fuel or excess nutrients that cannot be fully absorbed at the time. Allan Savory in his TED presentation establishes how new deserts have been re-established as verdant grasslands by re-introducing traditional cattle herding whereby the droppings both enrich the soil and contain the grass seeds for reseeding.
We need those excess excreted nutrients over and over again each day and they need to return to the food stream through the soil, though a diet entirely of poop is probably not very well balanced and should be mixed with veggie matter for a full-bodied compost. Composting and percolation through the ground to underground aquifers (except those exposed to fracking or other underground toxins) exposes excrement to the pro-biotic bacteria necessary to cleanse it for eventual safe reabsorption into plants. The Rich Earth Institute in Vermont does just that with collected urine (rich in nitrogen, phosphorous & potassium) in a [rpcess they call “peecycling” which is used after it is pasteurized !
That being said, excrement of sick humans and animals should be contained and kept out of the food stream.
No less an authority than our founding father, George Washington, considered people and horse casting to be more valuable than gold. Though he was many things to our nation, he considered himself, first and foremost a farmer. He studied it, saved seeds, used crop rotations, fertilizers, was intimately knowledgeable about the micro-climates of Mt. Vernon & the 8,000 acres he maintained for his wife’s family around Virginia. He built lovely “necessaries”, outhouses, throughout his estate from which the proceeds were harvested regularly and encouraged everyone to use them. The farms were extraordinarily prolific and provided all the food for the family and 300 workers.
Amish have been recycling their refuse regularly though some municipalities are now requiring them to put in leach beds.
Composting, Gardening, Landscaping, manure, Organic, Re-use, Recycle, Sustainable Food, Toxic Chemicals, Water | Comments (2)
Unfortunately there are few financial incentives for responsible curbside recycling. ZeroWaste is a complex whorl of economic, social and environmental incentives and penalties involving citizens, governments and businesses.
For profits (and some non-profits) have stripped off many of the profitable ends of the business:
- Waste collection services (WasteManagement, BFI, etc)
- Waste metal management for large pieces and valuable metals (from the jeweler & dentist to the auto junkyard)
- Glass, bottles, cans, cardboard: the reason scavenging in your recycling is discouraged is because your city tries to keep you costs down by selling these. Your city competes with individuals who take them to recycling centers. No easy answers here, many people make ends meet using these strategies.
- E-waste – stripped down for precious and recyclable metals
- Wood and other separable construction waste
What is left in municipal waste landfills is the dregs, that has no market and is expensive to maintain with toxic barriers – sadly, the contents of landfills are the most environmentally destructive:
- Styrofoams, black plastics, non-conforming plastics found predominantly in food containers & wrappings, electronic items shipped from overseas
- Packaging – wrappers from chips, candy
- Toxic items – against the law but people do it anyway
- Mixed material content items, for example:
- metal shovel w/wooden handle
- many toys
- Electronic appliances, tools, toys
- Plant matter that is difficult to compost – cactus & bamboo
- Recyclable/compostable materials that some folks are too lazy or unable to separate – milk cartons with attached plastic caps
Did you know that for every one trash can of non-recyclables that you put in front of your house that 71 have been put out in the manufacture of the contents of your trash?
That being said, in many cities, business trash has been subsidizing residential trash. Business complains, resident rates rise.
- One stream trash systems and single barrel street recycling are less efficient – we lose things such as high-grade white paper that could be recycled in to copy paper (that’s why it’s become more expensive). Hard-core recyclers are rabid because recycling efforts are dumbed down.
- On the flip side, much more is recycled overall because more residents are compliant
- Legislators are stuck in the middle trying to please both types of constituents, no one is fully happy.
The only “financial” incentive that I can think of is that your garbage costs would be even higher if you did not recycle. You may force your government to try it out but you may not be happy with the results.
How to change things? Find ways to change or legislate disposal/manufacture of items that typically fill up landfill waste. Make noise at town council meetings, join a committee, talk to your family, friends and neighbors.
Practice the 6 Rs of Zero Waste: Refuse, Reduce, Repair, ReUse, Recycle, Regulate.Composting, Economics, Packaging, Plastics, Polystyrene, Recycle, Regulate Waste, Zero-Waste | Comment (0)
That nice shiny paper that most receipts are printed on? BPA (or BPF) is likely-as-not an ingredient. We slip those recieipts in next to our currency in our wallets, slide our hands over them countless times as we rummage through our purses, pick them up to enter them in Quicken, then one more time to file, trash or shred them.
“When people talk about polycarbonate bottles, they talk about nanogram quantities of BPA [leaching out],” John C. Warner of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry observes observed about carbonless copy papers when he worked at Polaroid. “The average cash register receipt that’s out there and uses the BPA technology will have 60 to 100 milligrams of free BPA.” By free, he explains, it’s not bound into a polymer, like the BPA in polycarbonates. It’s just the individual molecules loose and ready for uptake.”
But thats not the end. Those duplicate check records? Carbonless credit card receipts? What if you’re a cashier handling them all day? Touched some food after handling the receipt? Ouch! Of course, many of us recycle those receipts, cool huh? Maybe not, it may be ending up in our recycled toilet paper. Is shredded thermal paper part of your composted fertilizer? Ooops.
Bill Van Den Brandt of Appleton papers point out that his company’s receipt paper (manufactured for NCR) is now BPA-free. This after after a lawsuit (NCR also named) for cleaning up PCB’s from the Fox River in Wisconsin) and subsequent change of ownership to employees.
“Attempts have been made to develop a thermal ink which reduces the problems associated with thermal papers by obviating the need to provide a thermal coating over the whole surface of the paper.” but this technology has not been perfected. I’ve got some receipts I can no longer read (though I really have no idea which technology was actually used).
Another option, the companies, TransactionTree, and AllEtronic emails a receipt to you (instantly) and you have 24 hour access to your receipts through their website. TransactionTree might also email you a retailer discount coupons & AllEtronic will soon have an iPhone app.
The sticking point is actually figuring out which manufacturers still use the BPA method and which stores buy paper from which mfg; data still outstanding. In the meantime, be aware. Don’t put thermal receipts in your paper recycling (or compost). Consider the electronic options, if available. Educate the stores you frequent. Decrease your use of microwaved convenience foods.Bisphenol, Composting, Organic, Packaging, Plastics, Polymer, Recycle, Sustainable Food, Think Globally, Toxic Chemicals | Comment (0)
Nothing gets my anxiety level higher than petro-plastic bags & wraps. Plastic takes hunreds of years to decompose while it does nothing but ensconce a loaf of bread or piece of meat that will be digested in days. Even organic foods comes wrapped in it – ouch. I am trying to let go of that which I cannot yet change so I breathe deeply and re-use and recycle.
Mine is a real and not ideal household. Cooking is not my forte and I buy a fair amount of frozen food rather than let paper wrapped foods go bad; using petro oil bad, killing animals needlessly, worse. Not all family members are as committed to zero waste as I am, so I attempt to keep damages to a minimum, thusly.
If you have identifiable containers or spaces for each, the process becomes easy for you and family members.
Flexible plastics triage (quatrage?).
- A) GROCERY/DRUGSTORE/TAKEOUT bags, BREAD & other hole-less bags of suitable size. Place with dog supplies for dog poop on walk or with cleaning supplies to line trash cans. IKEA sells a handy durable dispenser to attach inside a cabinet door for.
- B) XL/UNUSUAL shaped bags: Keep a few for future storing/protecting/carrying needs. I keep these with large handled paper bags.
- C) ZIP-LOC style bags (purchased or that foods come in): Put in sink for washing. See below for more details
- D) RECYCLE @ GROCERY: Every other flexible PETRO-plastic. More details below.
- E) Is the plastic CRUNCHY & CRINKLY? Chances are good that it is actually a bio-plastic i.e. made of cellophane, corn, etc. See below.
CATEGORY C: Zippered plastic bags. I pay more for the heavy duty kind with good zippers that work more than once; I probably get at least 10 uses out of each bag. Wash with soapy water, cold rinse (germs thrive in warm but not cold water; boiling temps that would kill germs will melt the bags). I have a couple sets of wooden upright plate racks that I keep just for bag drying as well upending them on my knife block when I run out of space. As I wash them I check for leaks and mark leaky bags with an X in permanent marker so I don’t reuse for airtight situations. I put them back in the boxes they came from. I feel comfortable re-using mine for food; others may not. I use the newer looking ones for food, the sadder ones for myriad uses. It feels like a lottery winning when I take in an XL zipper bag from frozen chicken pieces. Great for storing camping supplies or other large items in dirty places such as garages or attics. Keeps dust out of craft supplies.
CATEGORY D I store in the largest plastic bag in the collection. I can recycle at Safeway, Whole Foods and many other markets. They use these to manufacture composite porch wood, bender board, picnic tables and many other products. Included in the category are:
- Rigid frozen food bags (quick-rinse for stuck food)
- Produce bags,
- Air filled bags used as packing material (kids love poking holes to deflate these),
- Category C bags past their prime,
- Dry cleaning bags,
- Shrink wrap from warehouse store purchases
- Almost any kind of soft flexible plastic that comes my way
CATEGORY E: CRUNCH OR CRINKLY. I haven’t been able to find a definitive way to distinguish petro- from bio- plastic, so this is the best I can do if there is no marking on the plastic. These are eventually biodegradeable but probably aren’t appropriate for your compost heap. If you have compostable waste collection with your trash, put it in that container. If not, ask your city government or waste management company to add compostable separation as part of the next contract period. Otherwise, it goes in the regular trash for now 🙁
Packaging, Plastics, Polymer, Re-use, Recycle | Comment (0)
Grains of sand are as numerous as the stars in the firmament so it would would be a fruitless task to assess the source from which each grain was ground over the eons. Their origins could be from stone, bone, shell or sea detritus worn down by time.
We do know that sand is wonderful for many gardens as both a soil amendment and landscaping aid or element.
Being an inveterate recycler and composter, I was considering the possibilities for shells of the beer-steamed mussels we had just finished enjoying. I had considered offering them on Freecycle to a crafter that might have a creative idea but decided to try to take responsibility for our trash on my own property.
Always starved for inexpensive path and working area materials I’ve added them to the chunky stones and brick where I keep my planting supplies. As they get crunched to pieces, dust flys in and fall leaves crumble between the stones, new dirt is forming. Next year I can pick up the stones and gather that soil from the weed barrier to add to my compost.
Another form of sand is in those little silica packets that come in many electronics. While still sand, we have no idea where they come from or what they have been exposed to. I toss these in my stone pathway but Laura of “Make Life Lovely” has many other great ideas, so check them out!Composting, Gardening, Landscaping, Re-use, Recycle | Comment (0)
Cities are the new sustainable according to the article in Scientific American Special Issue on Better CitiesRecycle, Think Globally | Comment (0)
Is part of your 2010 New Year resolution to go through and dispose of all those old videotapes, floppy disks, zip Disks, DVDs, CDs and jewel cases that you never want to see again? You may need to put out a few dollars for postage or services but there are some choices for doing this responsibly:
Disabled employees of the nonprofit Alternative Community Training (ACT) in Columbus MO grind up various smaller plastic items such as CDs, VHS tapes and jewel cases for resale to manufacturers who use recycled plastic. You can mail your trash using media mail rates ($6.95 for the first 20 lbs and 30 cents for each pound over that).
GreenDisk uses a network of non-profit organizations to process techno trash. They refurbish what we can and recycle the rest. Inkjet cartridges get remanufactured and, when possible, cell phones and some computers get refurbished. Material that has no further operating life is broken down to its smallest components (metals, plastics, etc.) and used in the manufacturing of new products. All of the material that GreenDisk collects is reused or recycled. No hazardous materials or obsolete components go overseas to be processed or disposed of. The cost here is the same as above.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay area you may be able to take it directly to a local Green Citizen center. They locate themselves near business centers to encourage businesses which produce so much of the techno trash. When my husband’s business moved in San Francisco last week, we just wheeled a couple monitors on carts a few blocks to the Howard St center.
If you’re active at your church or school, consider a drive to collect and return this trash. (Solicit some donations to cover mailing boxes and postage at the same time).
Over the past few years I’ve accumulated a stash of solar garden lights but slowly they seem to be dying. I was complaining (mostly to myself) that 1) they don’t make things the way they used to or 2) I might be saving energy with solar lights but I’m spending it as I throw out these otherwise good fixtures and creating waste, to boot.
I slowed down enough to pull a couple of these apart and discovered that they use Ni-Cad or Ni-MH Rechargeable batteries that I could recharge or replace. It also was a good time to clean out the cobwebs from the light housing & spiff them up a bit. Here’s a good tutorial
If the plastic panel has disintegrated or the circuit is no longer working, time to toss or re-use the parts (unless you have electronics skills). I searched for pre-made LED solar circuits but they don’t seem to exist. BTW, don’t forget to keep the rechargeable batteries to recharge for other uses!Plastics, Recycle, Think Globally, Zero-Waste | Comment (0)
Is your copy/printer paper recycled? Probably not. If you separate and put out your paper for collection, you might presume that all the paper you buy for copying is recycled – you would be wrong. About 90% of the copy paper available for purchase and used in printing is virgin paper from freshly cut trees. The magazine trade is far worse, only 5% of magazine paper is of recycled content.
As of Sept 2008 the only 100% recycled copy paper I could find at the big box office supply stores was Staples and had to pay about a 50% premium. 30% recycled is readily available at most stores at about the same cost or just slightly more than virgin paper. Why?
Although the technology and paper is there for recycled , high quality, glossy magazine paper the will is not there. Those publications that ARE using recycled paper are predominantly those with a scientific, nature, health or consumer vantage such as Audubon, Consumer Reports, Scientific American (Reycled Magazine List) but Oprah has taken the big step as the first mainstream magazine. You can encourage this process by writing or e-mailing to the publishers of the magazines to which you subscribe.
By stopping the junk mail that arrives at your home, advertiser will be printing less. OptOutPrescreen can partially cut the flow of credit card and insurance offers. StopJunkMail.org will give you other ideas. Some folks don’t mind paying Green Dimes $15 to manage new junk mail offers as they arrive at your home; the $15 includes 10 trees planted in your behalf.
How Can I ReCycle This? has hints on how to give a 2nd life to almost anything.Recycle, Reduce, Simple living | Comments (2)