Paper Towels Made from 100% Recycled Materials and Cleaning Cloths; Our new normal

I walked through the backdoor of our home feeling so happy. Up until earlier that day, I thought I’d have to order IMG_1145the eco-friendly brand of paper towels I wanted to try on-line, then wait for Amazon to deliver, before getting to see how well they worked. But when I went to Price Chopper that afternoon, my new brand was right there, in the aisle for paper products.

It was as if I’d won a prize!

I arrived home with a pack of eight, removed a full roll of Bounty from the paper towel holder in our kitchen, and replaced it with the new brand, (which is a lot thinner, as it turns out.)

It was around that time when I heard my husband’s office door open.

slow cookerthanksgiving turkey-3

His footsteps echoed up the tile floor in the rear hallway. He turned the corner to the front of the house and came into view, stopping in the laundry room, squinting into the kitchen. Despite the dim lighting where he stood, I could see his face clearly. Judging from the way he eyed the open pack of towels on the counter and then turned to me, I was in trouble. I reached back and hid the towels behind me, then greeted him with a smile.

“Why’d you buy paper towels?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” I knew exactly what. “They’re Marcal.”

From his confused expression, this meant nothing.

“I’m blogging about that brand next week. Remember?”

He pointed left, to the closed pantry door opposite our front loaders. “We have sixteen rolls of Bounty in there.”

Now it was my turn to squint.

He paced through the doorway into the sun-lit kitchen, folding his arms across his chest as he approached. “We have to use them up.”

“We will.”

“Not at the rate we’re using paper towels these days.”

“I know! We’re doing great!”

IMG_0863It seemed my celebratory tone only made him more afraid over what would become of those 16 rolls. But it was true! We’d had the same one hanging in51AZcTSL0LL._AC_US160_ our kitchen for over a week and had hardly used it. The reason: I switched to bamboo cleaning cloths for wiping around my counter instead, and we’ve put a system place for what we do with them from start to finish!

THE SYSTEM

IMG_1183I keep my supply of clean cloths in a drawer. From there, I hang a new one on the stove handle every day. The stove is in the center of our kitchen and a convenient place to station IMG_1182a cloth for when I need to wipe around. It’s just as easy to reach there as it is to reach for a paper towel. Then, at the end of the day, or when the cloth gets even the slightest bit yucky, I toss it into a small trash can that I’d repurposed as a  cleaning- IMG_1264cloth  laundry bin.

If the cloth is damp, I’ll hang it on the side of the bin until it dries, to prevent a musty smell.  Whenever I get close to running out of cloths, I wash the contents of the bin in hot water, soap, and bleach, to kill off any bacteria. It can take weeks before we run through our supply, though. When I’d purchased the bamboo cloths I bought three boxes, not realizing that each contained three packs of three.  I now have 27, 7×8 inch cleaning cloths on hand.

My husband and I have also become more aware of it when we reach for a paper towel, and we’ve been finding ways to avoid it. Now that we have a system in place for our main alternative, that’s become much easier!

“Of course, we’ll use them,” I said. “Why wouldn’t we? But you know, Marcal paper towels are less than half the price of Bounty and they’re eco-friendlier.” (Although, I’ll admit, they’re not nearly as soft or absorbent.)

Marcal started using recycled paper to make their products in the 1940’s, way ahead of when being green was a thing. Back then, it made economic sense. Now Marcal is a division of the green Soundview Paper Company.

Studies have shown that paper mills that use recycled material for their products, consume fewer trees and use less water and power, than companies, like Proctor and Gamble, that chop down virgin forests to make stuff. IMG_1103

“You know what else is great?” I said. “Marcal makes napkins and toilet paper, too.”

Whatever the thought was that crossed my husband’s mind at that moment, it came out as a left side chin twitch at first. He leaned back against the counter, covering his face while he groaned, and then said through his hands, “If you decide to change our toilet paper just give me fair warning.”

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Paper Towels and the Degrees of Going Green

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought about going paper towel-less. Not surprising, many already had. They came up with some great alternatives for me to use when wiping around in my kitchen. (Thank you friends!)

THE WEDDING OF-3

 

GREENEST: GOING PAPER TOWEL-LESS

Cloth rags

One of the oldest alternatives to paper towels is what people had used before paper towels were first mass-produced in the 1930’s. They used cloth rags for cleaning! One of my FB friends cuts up old t-shirts and towels for that purpose. She keeps them conveniently located in a drawer in her kitchen. Another friend repurposes old cloth napkins for wiping around.

There are also packs of cleaning cloths available on the Web51AZcTSL0LL._AC_US160_ that can be purchased in different colors; so that bathroom cleaning rags don’t get confused with say, kitchen cleaning rags. e84b3a_727804c360424af381a70a3f2e8f0d8fSomeone also posted this nifty idea to my FB page. They’re cleaning cloths that can fit on a paper towel dispenser! How cool is that! http://www.theunpapertowel.com

But, as another friend pointed out, going with cleaning cloths instead of paper towels might not be as green as one would think. The problem is, those rags have to be washed in hot water and bleach to prevent bacteria from growing on them. If everyone all over the world were to do that, all that water and energy used could counter the benefits of going paper towel-less.

Sponges

The kitchen sponge is a staple in my household and a good alternative for wiping around counters. 41G-vidWzGL._AC_US160_These days, there are quite a few eco-friendly choices there, too.  Also, sponges can be sanitized in a dishwasher or microwave; both eco-friendlier options compared to washing machines.

 

GREEN: USING ECO-FRIENDLY PAPER TOWELS

There are many brands of paper towels that come from manufacturers that have committed to using post-consumer recycled materials. (An example of post-consumer recyclables is the mail and office paper my husband brings to the Dump each week, which eventually gets sent to paper mills and repulped to make other products.) There are quite a few brands that the non-profit National Resource Defense Counsel had rated highly, like Marcal, Seventh Generation, and Good Earth. But the NRDC gavetowel_family_2-6-15 their highest rating to the New Jersey based company Marcal, because it uses 100% post-consumer recycled materials and eco-friendly bleach to whiten their products.

GREENER: USING A COMBINATION OF ECO-FRIENDLY PAPER TOWELS, SPONGES, AND CLOTH RAGS

This should have appeared in between the GREENEST and GREEN, but I put it last, because this middle option, where we use a combination of green alternatives to Bounty paper towels, feels like a good fit. I purchased cleaning cloths and sponges for wiping around in the kitchen. But we’ll likely continue to use paper towels for some things, like yucky cat and dog mishaps. After we use up the Bounty we have in stock, (which could take a while, because we’ll be using less,) we’ll switch to a brand of greener paper towels, like Marcal.

Even if this does result in an extra load of laundry each week, the way I see it, we’ll still be a lot greener than we were before. First of all, a paper mill that relies on recycled raw material for manufacturing, like Soundview Paper Company, which makes Marcal, uses less water and energy than ones, like Proctor and Gamble, makers of Bounty and Charmin. Plus, we’ll be sending fewer used paper towels to the landfill!

IMG_1103

I’ll let you know about how I make it work next week, but for now, here’s something to think about: Which one of the degrees of going green could be a good fit for you?

It’s Not Easy Going Green

Over the weekend we had fun with neighbors and friends at our annual 4th of July party. To add to the awesomeness of fireworks and barbecue, my family came up.  My husband and I love hosting, which is a good thing, because we live in the middle of nowhere. That means when folks come to visit, they generally stay a spell.

So we’re geared up with plenty of beds, sheets and towels. That way, even when we have a full house, like we did this past weekend, everyone is comfortable. It just takes a little planning for meals and such. Then we all pitch in and things go smoothly. I should have planned for keeping my greener corners green too, though. Somewhere between grilling hot dogs and all those lively games of Scrabble my husband and I had a lapse in eco-friendly practices.

I heard once that it can take six weeks for newly forming habits to become part of someone’s lifestyle. I suppose then, if we’d set out to reduce our paper-towel usage back in say, April, instead of just a few days ago we wouldn’t have gone through an entire roll in a weekend. I tried to resist reaching for a sheet each time there were spills, but with meal preparation and clean up a near constant, a lot of times I’d forget. At least once, I threw out a cleaning cloth that I’d intended to wash and reuse.

On the other hand, we managed well enough with our recyclables. We just had more bottles, cans, paper, and plastic to carry up to the garage and sort into the bins my husband had set up. To make that easier, once my family understood what we were doing and how we were doing it, they all helped.

To me that says we wouldn’t have used as many paper towels if we’d had alternatives in place and a plan for what to do with them. Also, as a friend had suggested, it would have been better if our paper towel roll wasn’t hanging ready and willing next to the kitchen sink.  To be honest, though, the thought of moving it somewhere out of sight has me a bit uneasy. I know my husband won’t like it, either. Not yet anyway.

Right now, I have a cleaning cloth hanging off the handle of our stove, which I use instead of paper towels for wiping around my kitchen counter. But I learned just yesterday that my husband uses paper towels to cover food when he microwaves to prevent splatter. So we need to talk about how we each use paper towels and what we can and are willing to do differently.

I also have to figure out how many times I can use the same cloth for wiping around. I don’t want to spread bacteria across my counters.  YUCK! Right now, when a cloth seems soiled or it feels like it’s been in use a while, I toss it into the washing machine, so it can be washed the next time we do a load. But I think they need to be sanitized in hot water and bleach. The problem is, I never accumulate enough of them to justify a separate load.

I need a better plan.

I asked my Facebook friends for some ideas and they really came through. Now I just have to decide which would be a good fit for us. (I’ll blog more about that next week.) Once we have a system for how to function in the kitchen with less paper towels,  I’m sure it will be easy to keep. Then, hopefully, by the time my family comes up next, even cooking, cleaning, and heated Wii bowling matches won’t sidetrack us from staying green!

 

 

A Pox upon my Paper Towels

Here’s the bad news. With the way I use paper towels, I may be single-handedly deforesting our planet. I’m serious, those 3 trillion trees don’t stand a chance with me around. The amount of paper towels and napkins I toss every week must make up like 1/3 of our household garbage, too.IMG_1102 To make matters worse, when I went on the website for Bounty, the brand of paper towels my husband and I use, to find out how bad that actually was, I nearly cried.

I’ll give them credit for being transparent about the fact that Unknownthey use virgin wood pulp to make their products.  That means the raw material they use comes from harvesting lots of trees from old forests. The problem with that is that those mature forests also have well-established eco-systems; plants and animals that live in balance with each other that are being destroyed by deforestation. Those old trees play an essential part in our global eco-system, too. Without them, the methane and other gasses that classic + quick + easyplants and animals produce just by living and dying could poison our atmosphere. People don’t make it easy for them to do their jobs either. With our cars and factories, we need those trees to work overtime. Instead, companies like Procter & Gamble keep chopping them down.

I’ve been thinking hard on this. (My husband would say ‘obsessing’ is a better word.) For one thing, it’s discouraging that I’m here trying to save the planet and a big company, like Proctor and Gamble, is cutting down forests. But now that I realize that’s happening, I have to do things differently. If, as Susan Kinsella, Executive Director, Conservatree says, it takes about 24 trees to make 1 ton of paper products, like paper towels; and a roll of Bounty weighs around 11 ounces (I know this because I weighed one on our food scale,) then it would take around 24 trees to make 2,909 rolls of Bounty.

Well, my husband and I use about 3 rolls of paper towels per slow cookerthanksgiving turkey-2month. So, if we continue in that way, and we live to be eighty (God willing), having used towels every day from say, the time we were twenty, we’d consume enough Bounty to equal 24 trees.

So maybe I exaggerated about single-handedly deforesting the planet. But I live in North America, home of more paper towel users than anywhere in the world. Between me and my 565,265,000 neighbors, even if only half of them use the same amount of paper towels as I do, we could take a bite out of the planet’s 3 trillion trees. Plus, I’d guess businesses use a lot more paper products than the average household. So, there’s that.

With that jarring insight, here I am, at my first significant hurdle in making my life greener. Sure, I now choose to put all plastic-film packaging in a recycle bin rather than the trash, and I bring reusable shopping bags into stores. I also signed up with a registry to stop my junk mail, and am going paperless with most of my bank statements and bills, too. Those were easy changes, though. Changing my paper towel brand, somehow feels like a bigger deal.

But I am committed to going green; one corner of one room at one time, but I’m getting it done. And, for this corner, where my husband and I are no longer loyal customers of Bounty, the time to roll up my sleeves and find greener alternatives is now!

(I just have to break the news to my husband.)

 

Paper, Water, and Unwanted Mail

Guess I have a lot to learn, not only about going green, but about blogging, too. I could rattle off a long list of examples, but to name one, I’ve been researching on the web about green living for several weeks now and just realized that any article ever published on-line since the beginning of the Internet could come up in a Google-search. The problem is that sometimes there isn’t a publication date anywhere. (Or maybe I just don’t know where to look.) Even though my blog is more like a series of essays blended into a quirky sort of memoir, I’d like to at least have up-to-date facts and accurate info.

On that note, I should also mention that in my last blog post I used the term ‘green infrastructure’ incorrectly. Turns out it’s not about companies setting up factories so recycling, low emissions, and other eco-friendly practices can become part of their operations. placesto gowith yourdad this father's day (Doesn’t it sound like it should be that, though?) It’s actually about water.

According to the EPA: green infrastructure  is when buildings are designed with ways to divert rainwater so it can be stored for later use.  It has nothing to do with paper products, like junk mail. Or does it?

Did you know that the water needs of the pulp and paper industry exceed those of most other businesses?  According to an article by Art Haddaway in  Industrial Water World, that’s because water is used in almost every one of the paper making processes; from digesting wood chips to make pulp, to washing and bleaching the material to get a nice white appearance, to steaming the sheets so they’re smooth when they dry. But most of the water consumption occurs during that first part, when they turn the wood to pulp. That tells me that recycling DOES help save water, as well as trees, because processing reclaimed paper requires less wood.

But there’s still all kinds of chemicals that the industry uses to bleach their products and treat them to prevent mold that can wind up in our  water ways. Those toxins can linger for many years. Paper mills are also the fourth largest producers of greenhouse gasses.

Sometimes my research leads me to haunting truths and it’s hard not to feel powerless. In fact, I had my first sleepless night in a long time after I read about how the EPA and watchdog groups had been after the paper industry since the 1980’s to adopt manufacturing methods that were gentler on the environment. Time and again the mills lobbied to resist legislation that would help the planet or found ways around the EPA guidelines and regulations. They dismissed the notion that they could be doing irreparable damage to our one and only world and harm all of us. (Thankfully, this has improved.)

But then I remembered that this green journey is about me learning about what I can do. Whether I’m remembering to bring my reusable shopping bags to stores, or setting up recycling bins for office paper and mixed paper at home, these little changes can add up to something that matters. They can also inspire others, like my husband, daughter, family, and friends. If enough people change some of their habits, routines, lifestyle choices to save the planet big things can happen.

In that vein, I’ve signed the dmachoice.thedma.org registry, which will hopefully put a stop to my junk mail. I’ll let you know if it works. My husband said he’ll do it, too. Also, as bills and statements arrive, I look for ways to go paperless with each company. Most of the time, they make it easy.

Now, I’m off to learn how much of an impact my Bounty paper towels have on the planet. I’m hoping the answer will be something my husband will want to hear. I’ve planted the seed with him about possibly making a change. He didn’t say much. (That’s never a good sign.) Until next week.

 

Why doesn’t recycling pay?

I was thinking the other day about how writing this blog is helping me stay focussed on making my life greener.  I’ve had to become more disciplined. So far I’ve been sticking to my schedule of preparing an article each week and posting every Friday, (which hasn’t always been easy, especially when work and vacation and family stuff comes up.) But that means I can’t just talk about going green. I have to learn how to do it on schedule too, and then actually make changes. Even though I’m only taking on one corner of my life at a time, that steady pace has me feeling like a deer caught images-1in headlights some days. Last week, when my husband proofread How Not to Recycle Your Mail, he stopped at the point where I mentioned how overwhelmed I felt with all the different kinds of  paper that I have to figure out what to do with, and said, “I’m not sure what’s recyclable and what’s not either.”

It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

So, we’ve been bringing our office paper, mail, and cardboard to the Dump and asking the staff there about what to do with it. They’re usually very helpful. (Although there is one woman who always seems to be in a bad mood. We try not to ask her too many questions.) It’s important for us to know that we’re doing it right. Many of the articles I’ve read about the business of recycling  have suggested that recycling programs educate their communities about what can be recycled, because if the wrong items get thrown together it can contaminate everything else or gunk up the machinery. That can make recycling less profitable.

Since starting this blog, I’ve been trying to problem solve how to reduce, reuse, recycle in a way that wouldn’t hurt. I started with single-use plastic bags, which I reduced to nothing. YAY! I now only bring my reusable ones to stores. But through my research I learned that plastic shopping bags are part of a broader category called plastic film, in which a lot of the stuff we buy is packaged. My husband and I weren’t ready to IMG_0789give up paper towels and other staples because they come wrapped in plastic. So, I was relieved to learn that almost all plastic film and even the bags that our frozen berries come in can be recycled. These days, we accumulate all that plastic wrapping in our garage and include it in our weekly deposits at the dump.

But I have to admit, if I stop and think too long about what happens to the bags next my heart sinks a little.

My hope is that my efforts to become greener will inspire and encourage others, so this end of the story, where our County Dump has been bundling and storing plastic film since 2008, is not IMG_0785something I’d like to write about. But it’s important. Those plastic bags, which are a commodity that can be sold on the market and then used as raw material to make stuff like rugs, bags and decking, to me represent a failure of recycling programs. For some reason, these raw materials aren’t being sold to industries and made into new things. Instead, they’re just sitting.

Many people have told me that recycling doesn’t make good dollars and cents; that it winds up costing more for municipalities to pick up, sort, bundle and store the materials than it’s worth. For our County at least, it looks like plastic film recycling is more of a drain than a cash cow. But I have a hard time understanding why recycling should be a losing program. All that aluminum, paper, plastic, glass, and cardboard that we dutifully deliver can be sold to businesses as raw material. So why doesn’t recycling pay?

One reason is that the recycling industry is trying to sell a commodity that fluctuates in value more than any other.  In 2002, when oil prices went way up–––and I used to cry each time I filled up my gas tank––– recyclables were the raw-material rockstars. Industries bought them over the virgin stuff for production and municipalities expanded their recycling programs. Unfortunately, the high demand didn’t last. Now that oil prices are at a low, guess what: recyclables are once again at the bottom of heap. Director of policy/advocacy for the National Waste and Recycling Association, Chaz Miller, explained the problem as “…[recyclables are] a supply that never stops, regardless of demand.”  Karidis, Arlene: How the recycling industry is fighting the whims of commodities’ markets

But the green technology that could make recycling and other planet-saving practices make sense for businesses is either coming or available. The candy and beverage company Nestle’ has invested in a green infrastructure. Despite having to pay more, they use recycled plastics to make new soda bottles and such.  Westervelt, Amy: Is it time to rethink recycling. The tech-giant Apple has also made the commitment. It’s planning to use the methane gas released by garbage to power one of its new plants.  Rosengren, Cole: Apple makes surprise entry into the waste-to-energy industry  Trex, is another example. It recycles plastic shopping bags and uses them as raw material to make decking. They and the supermarket chain, Price Chopper, have partnered in their recycling efforts. Price Chopper makes it possible for customers to return their single-use shopping bags to stores and then in turn sells the plastic films directly to Trex.

It seems that when private companies join together to solve a problem they find a way to get it done and make money. But for recycling programs, staying in the black is a challenge, especially if the plastic bags keep coming in and they have no one to buy them. Another part of the challenge is that not all recyclables are equal and some can be a real pain in the neck.

Aluminum and paper are two of the top commodities, with paper being the easiest to make anew. Aluminum is a metal, which can be recycled endlessly. It doesn’t degrade each time it’s reprocessed the way paper or plastic does. That’s why over 70% of the aluminum used in construction comes from recycled.   Glass bottles and jars are perhaps the biggest headaches for waste management facilities, particularly in communities where single-stream recycling is used.

With single-stream recycling, no one has to worry about sorting their glass, plastics, and papers and then having to schlep separate bins to the curb. Single-stream, means one bin for all recyclables. Easy. People like it, too. The sorting comes later, when workers on assembly lines in recycling plants sort the different types of recyclables into multiple streams on a conveyer belt, so they can be bundled and sold. The problem with that is that there are plenty of opportunities  for bunches of recyclables to become contaminated. Once that happens none of the paper, plastic or cardboard in them can be used.

Glass, which easily shatters, is a big reason why only 25% of the recyclables collected in many single-stream recycling programs actually make it to market. What that means in terms of dollars yankee swapand cents is reduced sales. Plants still have to pay for labor and cover other expenses, they just lose 75% of their product.  I’m not an accountant, but it seems to me that a company with that kind of loss on the books  wouldn’t stay in business long.   Hickman, Matt: Are your glass bottles really getting recycled?

I don’t mind sorting my plastics film, glass, and paper into separate bins. (Disclaimer: When I say, ‘I don’t mind sorting…’ I actually mean: my husband doesn’t mind… He’s the one who deserves credit for all of that.)  I don’t have a problem with taking it all to the Waste Management Facility, either. (Um… that’s mostly him, too.) But recycling is one of those important three R’s (reduce, reuse recycle) that could help the planet.  I want it to work.

I’m guessing most people do.

Anyway, my next task is to figure out how to reduce the mail that comes into my house every day, so I’m off to find out about stop-junk-mail data bases. I’ll let you know how that goes next Friday. See you then!

How Not to Recycle Your Mail

I flipped up the lid on my kitchen trash can the other day and there, on top of our household garbage were three IMG_0761envelopes, a bank statement, and a catalog, all addressed to my husband. I peeled each and every one off the heap, proving my dedication to recycling, because we’d had salmon for dinner and the mail felt and smelled like fish. I marched down the hall, burst through the door to my husband’s office, and showed him the evidence. He forced his gaze up from his computer screen and looked at me through eyes bleary from hours of data entry.

“These are recyclable,” I said, because I could tell he didn’t get why I was standing there.

“Oh. Right.” He shrugged.

“Don’t shrug me off. This is about saving our planet.”

He sat back in his creaky chair, rubbing his forehead. “I’m on board. But what do I do with my––” He stopped, his blue eyes drifting down and left. Then he sat up straighter.  “Wait a minute. Just yesterday I saw YOUR mail in the trash can.”

I let the hand with the soggy letters sink.

“Haddassa magazine? Visa?” He lowered his voice and stood for this next one. “Woman’s Day?”

I backed towards the door.

He paced around his desk. “So what was that about saving the planet?”

imagesAdmittedly, changing how we dispose of our mail is going to take some getting used to. It may even be more difficult than when we switched from single-use shopping bags to reusable ones. The thing is, we’ve been opening our mail, giving it a quick read, taking two steps to the trash can, and dropping the mail in for most of our adult lives. By now, it’s an autopilot sequence. And so, those thin envelops and thick catalogues make up a high percentage of the stuff we haul to the dump each week. If the average family sends 41 pounds of mail to landfills per year, seems to me the two of us are above average.

The good news is that the paper industry has been recycling for a really long time. In fact, they’ve been recycling since way  before the word ‘recycling’ even appeared in dictionaries. (In case you’re wondering, that was in 1927 and the word pertained to recycling oil.) I mean, we’re talking Egyptian scribes erasing hieroglyphics from sheets of papyrus to reuse them, and Chinese wood-block printers repulping linen sheets to print new books on, and the first printing mill in the American colonies that sent some poor schlub around the cobblestone streets in Pennsylvania with a push cart  to collect old rags so it could make new paper. ( the-history-of-paper )

In other words, print mills have their system for recycling down, because they’ve been doing it longer than everyone else. But it’s not just mail that they recycle. They have a bunch of categories of reclaimed paper that have to be recycled separately. For me, that means that I have more to organize.  Instead of just figuring out how to green that corner of my life where my mail keeps piling upimages, I’m going to have to think about all the paper products I throw out in my mess of a home office, too. In fairness to my husband, he didn’t have any where else to put his mail besides the trash can, because I haven’t thought about how to sort and store those recyclables yet. There’s a reason for that, too. It’s that I’m feeling overwhelmed by the broad scope of paper recycling.

But according to the Institute of Scrap and Recycling Industries, most everyone else is not overwhelmed, and thanks to them more than 2 times the amount of paper gets recycled each year, compared to what gets brought to landfills. What helps, I’m sure, is that many Counties make it easy by providing curbside pick up that includes paper products. In some communities recyclables don’t even have to be presorted, because of a new method called ‘single-stream recycling.’ That’s when people put their plastics, paper, cans, bottles, and cardboard into a single receptacle. Then the contents of those bins are transported to a center where assembly-line workers sort them into the different categories. This makes recycling a lot easier and builds cooperation for it in communities. It also provides jobs. But it likely raises the cost of recycling, too. After the materials are sorted they’re sold and transported to various businesses that use them to make new stuff, so hopefully that money is made back and there’s a profit in there somewhere.  (I’ll blog more about that next week.)

Reclaimed paper that is purchased by paper mills accounts for 36% of the industries production needs. 76% of paper mills buy reclaimed paper and use some or all of it to make new products that are sold around the world. After the collected recyclables are transported from recycling centers to paper mills, they are sorted into categories, like: newspaper, cardboard, office paper, and mixed paper. Different paper products are made from each of them. Items that we use everyday,  like tissues, office paper magazines, and card board boxes are almost always made from reclaimed paper. Some virgin materials, like wood chips from pine and birch trees, have to be used, as well, because the fiber in the pulp degrades a little more each time paper is repulped. But still, reusing what has already been made reduces green house gasses, consumes less water, and saves forests.

Here’s a 4-minute video on recycling paper from Zoom TV (Thumbs up to the little kid doing the interview.): http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ess05.sci.ess.earthsys.recycleplant/visiting-a-recycling-plant/

Where we live we don’t have single stream recycling. We also don’t have garbage pick up. But we do have a County dump and we bring our recyclables there every week. Last week, I noticed that there are bins designated for the different categories of paper:

  • Card board
  • Newspapers
  • Mixed paper, which included catalogues, junk mail, books, telephone books, and most paper with print on it (the ink will have to be removed before recycling.)
  • Office paper

So, to start somewhere, my homework for this week is to set up a container for each of those categories and to put them in a place where my husband and I are reminded to use them.  Maybe then paper recycling will feel more manageable. Maybe some day soon, we won’t have to think about recycling our mail, it will just be automatic.

Until next week…