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Re: [greenyes] recycling vs. composting of cardboard

In a message dated 6/3/04 8:02:50 PM, calcompost@no.address writes:

<< For a while I've been buying milk in waxed cardboard 1/2 gallons, &
composting the carton. I've noticed that it takes quite a while to decompose, and
it appears I'm ending up with a plastic coating in my compost. Any suggestions?

It was my intent to reduce my waste & environmental impact by purchasing milk
in the cartons, rather than using milk in #2 plastic jugs. Am I wrong?


Dear Angie,

About composting milk cartons, the fact is that these and all frozen food
packages, cold drink cups, etc, are made of polycoated paper, that is, highgrade
paper coated on both sides with low density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic, NOT
wax as many people believe. Hence the plastic ending up in your compost.

I'd suggest that you buy milk in high density polyethylene (#2 HDPE) jugs,
which are almost universally collected for recycling. This will remove the
plastic source from your compost. If you don't want to buy milk in the most
common HDPE bottle, then I think your choices are (1) look for milk supplied in
returnable glass bottles; or (2) see if any local milk suppliers offer milk in
polycarbonate (PC) plastic bottles. The latter are returnable, refillable, &
recyclable, but offhand I don't know how widely available they are.

PC bottles are like the large blue tinted bottles used for many water
coolers. PC would be coded #7. It's a high-end engineering plastic with good reuse
potential given the quality of the plastic & its value. However, you may have
to search around to see if a local dairy offers the bottles & has take-back
in place. PC is a more stable plastic that won't impart a plastic flavor to
bottle contents. I've been reusing PC bottles for my water cooler for years
with no problem. Before I take them back to refill at the water store, I slosh
around a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the bottles, then pour them out.
That sterilizes the bottles.

I can only offer my opinion regarding composting vs recycling of corrugated
cardboard, namely that I think recycling is the preferred option to save
forests, etc. Corrugated is eminently recyclable, with many mills accepting it at
good prices. If your local recycling collection program does not accept
corrugated, you should lobby them to add it, as it's a large fraction of the discard

Good luck,
Gretchen Brewer
Earth Circle
San Diego, CA

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