paper

Paper: Compost or Recycle?

A while ago, a friend asked me which was better, composting paper or recycling it.

the funnies

That is a really good question that required me to do a bit of research.

And the answer is that it depends.

Paper is not infinitely recyclable (unlike glass), it’s fibers eventually degrade in quality after being recycled 5-7 times. Printer and office paper require strong fibers, so its fibers have only been recycled a couple times. Newspaper, wrapping paper, and tissue paper, on the other hand, can use lower quality fibers.

Here is what should be recycled and what should be composted and in what situation:

Recycle

  • Glossy magazines, advertisements, and catalogs (these are more likely to contain toxic additives you won’t want in our compost if you are using it to grow produce)
  • Office paper
  • Sticky notes

In general, paper that is of higher quality should be recycled so that it can be used again, thus saving resources compared to virgin paper production.

Compost

  • Paper products that are soiled with food waste, like napkins, paper towels, and paper plates (they can’t be recycled anyway)
  • Newspaper
  • Tissues
  • Brown paper bags with food stains from takeout
  • Greasy pizza box
  • Shredded paper (even if it is shredded office paper, it cannot be recycled)

As for composting, it is better to add lower quality paper that is less likely to be recycled. In addition, adding paper is good for the health of your compost pile, helps keep it from being smelly, and absorbs water.

Unfortunately, some paper products can’t be recycled or composted and have to be reused or ultimately end up in the trash can.

Landfill

  • Plastic coated paper products like coffee cups
  • Glittery, glossy, and metallic wrapping paper
  • Glittery tissue paper

So there you go!

There are some other things to remember though.

  1. When buying paper products, opt for post-consumer recycled content to save as many trees as possible. There needs to be a demand for it!
  2. Soley composting high-quality paper keeps those good fibers from the production stream, meaning there is less recycled paper to work with, also meaning more virgin resources being used.

 

Resources

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An Audit of Our Recycling

Yeah, our recycling in Chicago is pretty much the pits.

I am pretty skeptical that anything we put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled, and that is why many people don’t even bother. I totally get that.

But recycling is a habit that I don’t plan on breaking.

We have a legitimate recycling bin in our house and it was one of my most favorite Christmas gifts. That’s right, I wanted and received a recycling bin for Christmas a number of years ago! I feel no shame!

recycling audit3

Our bin gets filled up every week or so, depending on what is going on. When it is full, I take it downstairs and dump it into the recycling tote sans bag like you’re supposed to.

Since I basically recycle on autopilot, I wanted to actually pay attention to what is in my recycling bin by taking an audit of what’s inside. 

Below is probably about a week’s worth of recycling. 

recycling audit1

 We have:

  • 1 dishwasher detergent bottle
  • 1 cardboard beer caddy
  • 4 glass bottles
  • 1 aluminum can
  • 2 plastic salad containers
  • 3 cardboard boxes
  • 1 plastic bottle
  • 1 aluminum takeout container
  • 1 milk carton
  • 3 paper bags
  • 1 pile of junk mail, envelopes, newspaper and paper

That’s not too bad. We can definitely do a better job of buying plastic-free lettuce, and we usually get milk in returnable glass bottles. 

Each week is different and I am going to start noticing what goes into my bin more and see where I can make changes.

Up next, a waste audit! Yup, going to go through the garbage. Stay tuned! 

Getting Back on Track

We got back from our European jaunt on Saturday and I am still recovering from jetlag and getting back on track with work and life.

That means I have not had time to blog, so for now, I leave you with two pictures of recycling we encountered on our travels.

recycling in France

Paris, France had corner recycling centers

recycling in austria

Recycling in Austria at the train station has bins for metal, paper, plastic, and other waste.

If you are disappointed that all I am going to post of my trip are of recycling, do not fear. Keep scrolling!

eurotrip1

Paris, France

eurotrip2

Paris, France

eurotrip3

Paris, France

eurotrip4

Paris, France

eurotrip5

Paris, France

eurotrip6

Munich, Germany

eurotrip7

Munich, Germany

eurotrip8

Munich, Germany

 

eurotrip10

Hallstatt, Austria

 

 

How To: Stop Junk Mail

Getting stuff in the mail is awesome.

Getting unwanted stuff in the mail is not.

 

We all have experienced it. You open the mailbox and find something addressed to you or the current resident (whom you have never heard of) and have no idea why you are getting this piece of mail. You don’t even know what this company is that’s sending you catalogs.

Besides just tossing it in the recycling bin, there are a number of ways you can keep yourself from getting junk mail in the first place.

The biggest thing you can do is avoid giving out your address, but sometimes junk mail will find you anyway.

Below are some resources you can use to be removed from all sorts of mailing lists.

 

paper karma

Here are some of my requests I submitted to PaperKarma. Who are you King Ranch Saddle Shop?!

 

Another way to combat the onslaught of unwanted mail is to find the sender’s phone number, any number you can find, and call them to remove yourself from the mailing list.

Be warned that it takes over a month sometimes to be officially removed from mailing lists. A lot of the time, a catalog or a mailing is already in production and printed with your name on it before you make the call.

On another note, as much as I love giving money to a good cause such as a charity or non-profit, be careful. Sometimes when you donate, your mailing information can get shared with (or sold to) other organizations. For example, post-election, K donated to an environmental organization and now we get TONS of calendars, address labels (SO MANY), notepads, and more.

If you are looking for more, check out my friend Celia over at Litterless who also wrote a great post on getting rid of junk mail.

A Recycling Change Up

The other day, we found a weird site outside our building. K called me as he left for work to tell me to look outside. He told me there were 3 recycling carts on the sidewalk with our address on them.

It turned out not to be 3 recycling bins, instead, it was only one recycling bin, and 2 garbage cans that also happened to be blue. WHY DO THEY DO THAT?! Do they really need to make recycling anymore confusing??

6-1-17

The cart on the left is the recycling cart. The contents of the other two will be headed to the landfill.

After that happened, our black City of Chicago garbage carts were left out on the sidewalk to be picked up and hauled away, and now our City blue cart is gone now too.

6-1-17 1

Overall, I am pretty confused right now. Since our building has 4 units or less, we fall into the City recycling program. Why are we suddenly using a private service?

I am going to have to do a little digging because of course we were not informed of anything by our landlord. I will keep you posted!

You Can Compost More Than Food

Most of the time when we think of what goes into compost, we think of organic food waste and yard clippings.

compost container

While that is entirely correct, there are plenty of other natural items that can be added to your compost pile as well. Here are some other items you may have been tossing into a landfill that are perfectly acceptable to be returned back to the soil.

  • Dry Cereal
  • Bread
  • Crackers & pretzels
  • Pasta, rice, and grains
  • Loose leaf tea
  • Natural fibers (ie. cotton, hemp, silk, wool)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Shredded paper
  • Human and pet hair
  • Sawdust
  • Cardboard
  • Lint from dryer and vacuum
  • Napkins, paper towels, and tissues
  • Wooden chopsticks and popsicle sticks
  • Wood ashes
  • Brown paper bags
  • Old spices
  • Egg shells
  • Expired jams and preserves
  • Nail clippings
  • Cotton balls & cotton swabs (the cardboard kind)

Think of what will actually be left in your trash can! Probably not a lot!

All of this depends on if you are composting at home or using a service. If you have compost collection, your municipality or service will give you exact guidelines of what is and is not allowed.

Below is what my pick up service, Healthy Soil Compost, accepts.

what-to-compost

Numerous Unnecessary Wedding Paper Goods

If you have not planned a wedding in the past 10 years, do you have any idea how many wedding paper products the wedding industry wants you to buy?

It is just not wedding invitations anymore, my friend.

Here are all of the suggested items to buy:

  • Save the Dates
  • Bridal shower invitations
  • Bachelorette party invitations
  • Rehearsal dinner invitations
  • Engagement party invitations
  • Thank you cards
  • Gift tags
  • Place cards
  • Menus
  • Programs
  • Table number cards
  • Stationary suites
  • Napkins
  • Coasters
  • Signs for literally everything (wait this is where the cake is? The giant cake did not give it away)

 

wedding paper products

A catalog from Wedding Paper Divas

wedding paper product2

Same Wedding Paper Divas catalog

I can easily tell you that I do not need/want half of these things.

Cross these off right now.

  • Save the Dates
  • Bridal shower invitations
  • Bachelorette party invitations
  • Rehearsal dinner invitations
  • Engagement party invitations
  • Thank you cards
  • Gift tags
  • Place cards
  • Menus
  • Programs
  • Table number cards
  • Stationary suites
  • Napkins
  • Coasters
  • Signs for literally everything

What You Can Do or Not Do Instead

First of all, most wedding-related invitations can be replaced by email, and the market has responded to that. Green Envelope lets you create and send beautiful invites via email. As much as I would love to do e-vites for the actual wedding, I do have a sentiment for formal invitations in the mail.

Even more so, you don’t need gift tags if you don’t provide favors. #SorryNotSorry I am throwing a giant party for you, you don’t need another koozie/bubbles/mints/matches/etc.

Instead of individual place or escort cards try a seating chart. They are all over Pinterest. Keep in mind that escort cards are basically going to be thrown out immediately unless you have weirdly sentimental guests who like to keep them forever for no particular reason other than feeling bad throwing them out (me).

Individual menus can be also be replaced with a singular menu board, preferably one another bride could use again, such as a chalkboard. Or just surprise your guests!

So far, I have not gotten into much of the necessary paper portions of the wedding yet.

That will come soon enough, but I have done one thing.

To ask my bridal party, I purchased handmade recycled cards, because everyone loves a good snail mail surprise in their mailbox.

I could have just sent a text to be real anti- wedding paper products, but my friends and I do enjoy sending each other things that are on a piece of paper and not a screen.

 

bridesmaid invites

Cards ready to be sent

 

79 Days to Receive My Blue Cart

See how this escapade started here: Part 1 and Part 2

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Have heard nothing and received nothing so far. Maybe I will call again this week…

If I am a resident who actually is concerned and wants to recycle, I can only imagine how quickly this experience would turn someone off from getting a blue cart who is not that concerned.

Friday, June 17th, 2016

(cricket noises)

I decided to call again, saying this was the third time I had inquired about where my cart is. I was told that the ward superintendent  was emailed about the issue on June 9th, but nothing had happened since then. Again they made a note that I had checked in about it, and they said they would try one more time to get in touch with the ward superintendent.

I am not crossing my fingers.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

This morning, I was riding my bike back from my workout when lo and behold, there was my blue cart sitting on the curb next to the garbage cans (it is garbage day)! Hallelujah!

bluecart3

It was a miracle! I quickly run upstairs and emptied my recycling bin into my blue cart. What a feeling! Now that this endeavor is finally over, I put some numbers together to make this fancy infographic about my experience.

how long did this take-

 

 

All in all, this took just too long. The average person is not going to bother with this if that is how long it takes.