Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's your one way ticket to midnight

For the ears, not the garden...
When a comment becomes a post.  JN asks:
[Do you compost] paper with ink on it?

Long answer:
Before I started, I looked long and hard at that, because I had read that inks weren't safe, newspaper was bleached, all that fun stuff. But while everyone was saying it, very few people actually linked to a source. It was just one of those things that everyone knew. Or at least said.

Having worked in a print shop, I was suspicious of the claim that modern inks are dripping with heavy metals just waiting to kill you. The vast majority of inks today are made from soy, and the 'glossy' paper is generally covered with kaolin clay, not plastic. Kaolin is inert and will break down easily if your paper is shredded.

BPA in the ground has a half life measured in hours: An important result of the degradation study was that, independent of the soil type, 14C-BPA was rapidly dissipated and not detectable in soil extracts following 3 days of incubation. So shredding that Walmart receipt is probably ok.

As one of the few articles that actually uses sources noted about PCBs: Since all carbon sources take up PCB 11 from the air, and it is present everywhere, that really leaves us with no uncontaminated source of carbon-rich material. Like cadmium, PCBs can be found in inks in small traces, but because it's in the air, it's found in small traces in everything, including your garden plants, which take it up through the air much more easily than they do through the roots*.

Is there risk that something bad for you is going to get into your shred through inks?  Absolutely. 

But as there's no way to completely avoid pollutants, it's really a matter of risk management. I look at it this way: if you don't worry about your kid chewing on a magazine page, there's no need to worry that he'll be harmed when that same page is shredded, rotted, run through a worm or roly poly**, mixed in with a ton of other things, then used by a plant that then goes into his mouth.

If you don't mind that the melted cheese from your pizza touches the box, why would you mind if the box ends up in the garden?

I strip out plastic windows, plastic tape, obvious metal inks (magnetic and fluorescent), but otherwise I don't worry about it too much.

UPDATE: On a completely related subject -- and going the other way -- is the prospect of what David the Good calls killer hay. There are herbicides used in agriculture that even once they pass through plants, then animals, then compost, will still kill your garden.

That stuff is probably in your super-meat pizza: in the sausage, the cheese, the tomato-based sauce, and the dough. You might just be safer eating the box.

* So if you want to keep PCBs out of your garden, bury the newspaper paper instead of burning it.
** Which bugs remove heavy metals, like cadmium, from the soil.


  1. "You might just be safer eating the box"

    My favorite pizza is Dominos. According to some people I wouldn't notice the difference.

  2. Good stuff. I want to do more of this, but I can't seem to train the underlings to keep the compostables separate from the other stuff.

  3. No matter what you do, someone will say you are doing it wrong. I am not sure if the goal is to get the rest of us to give up (I have been accused of that, if wrongly) or whether there is another goal. In my case, I just advise that starting and finishing on the right foot or not doing it at all (or at least not claiming something as a good) is the best way. But I go bey that, to my knowledge.

    As for food though, I think Christ sort of put an end to that. It is what comes out of your mouth, more or less, not what goes in it (with definite caveats which didn't need mentioning in His time). *cough* Are you listening, pope? *cough* Which... as someone who has to go hungry from time to time, is quite an important issue. While I like fresh, healthy, nutritious... I will take what I can get, if and when I can even eat or make food. Though when I can manage quinoa and rice, even that is better than fast food by a long shot.

    Oh, I wanted to mention that it was interesting to see the author of that book. I picked it up when Vox mentioned it, or... for the third or fourth time, just as a lark. Haven't read it, yet anyway. Still, curious to see who. Seems like a bit of a... well... folksy/hippie sort. Rambling... Later.

  4. You might just be safer eating the box

    Once again, we are reminded exactly where we are in this upside-down alchemical progressive utopia that is the 21stCent.