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Re: [GreenYes] composting paper bags?

----- Original Message -----
From: Christine McCoy
To: Greenyes@Grrn. Org
Sent: Wednesday, September 04, 2002 12:34 PM
Subject: FW: [GreenYes] composting paper bags?

>>Here's your answer: Yes, the paper bags are perfectly safe to compost

I agree with this, paper bags are less processed and inked over than
newsprint, which is also safe to compost.

>>as are all paper fibers that are not suitable for recycling.

This I don't accept at this point in time. Organic standards forbid the use
of colored, glossy papers in composting and mulching; these may contain
pigments, dyes and other contaminants making them more suspect from a
composting perspective.

See :

"Besides its oil content, an ink is made up of close to 50% pigment,
traditionally derived from petroleum byproducts, metals and clays. Over the
years, most of the toxic heavy metals which are known carcinogens such as
lead, cadmium and chromium have been replaced in lithographic inks, mainly
with carbon-based substitutes. Lead chromates, however, are still found in
flexographic inks used for packaging. And metallics and fluorescents, which
are 70-80% pigment, always carry heavy metals.

But litho inks do still contain barium, copper, zinc, aluminum, manganese
and cobalt; and certain colors have the possibility of exceeding current EPA
threshold levels for these elements in their most common formulations.
(Note: Irregardless of whether an ink is vegetable or petroleum-based, its
pigment content will be the same.) For more on colors that exceed current
EPA maximuns on copper and barium, download Partners in Design's publication
True Colors? Copper and Barium in PMS Colors.

When these elements break down under acidic conditions (as they can in
landfills) or when they mix with solvents (as they do during washup on
press) they can become a cause for concern when deinke or buried in
landfills. When printed solid waste is buried in landfills, the heavy metals
can potentially leach into groundwater and eventually into tap water. To
compound the problem, incineration (the favored method of treating solid
waste in many areas) concentrates the heavy metals in ash residue and what's
not captured by adequate convertors can result in air-to-water pollution.

Barium and copper, although not classified as true heavy metals, can, in
certain forms, produce effects like heavy metals. Barium is federally
regulated as a toxic constituent (TC) and copper and zinc are acutely toxic
to aquatic life in certain forms. Zinc is a necessary component of metallic
golds, bronzes, and tinted shades; aluminum is present in silver and gold
and manganese and cobalt are routinely used as drying agents.

It is infinitely better to encourage research and development among ink
manufacturers for nontoxic pigment substitutes than to hope for ideal
containment conditions in landfills and incineration plants. For local
information of disposal of ink and classifcation of hazardous waste, contact
your State Department of Ecology.

Specification of ToySafe inks (alternative non-heavy metal based
formulations) is an option, and the cost is comparable except for some of
the warmest reds and Process Blue, but ToySafe inks present compromises in
gloss, color, and light-fastness. Ultimately, until ink companies can
develop workable alternative pigments, nonspecification of the potentially
toxic colors may be the best way that designers can keep these questionable
ingredients out of the waste stream. "

Worms love paper grocery bags as they do cardboard and newspaper. If you
really want to speed up composting, or mix the paper intimately with your
kitchen wastes, soak it, run it through a garbage disposal, dewater through
a fine screen, and place it in thin layers on a top fed worm system. Yummmy!

But, while I agree that brown paper and cardboard are indeed quite
compostable, I have to say that I still buy the argument that colored,
glossy paper, and perhaps foreign paper as well, should still be considered
with suspicion.

My two cents,

Frank Teuton

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