recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

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Dora Dora
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recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Which is better for the environment? I mean, recycling consumes energy to collect and make viable for reuse, while composting creates CO2 and may mean that the product is replaced with virgin materials. I don't know how cardboard is recycled at all, but they use the pulp from the paper to make more paper, so wouldn't it be better to recycle that? Does anyone know which is better for these paper products?
Reed Reed
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Hi  Dora,
Thanks for posting!  I’ve been hoping someone would get the composting thread going again!
I was so surprised to learn (from this site) that paper is only recycled a few times (I think about 4-6) before being sent to take up space in the landfills!  So between recycling the paper/cardboard and composting it, I’d say compost it…
But if you would rather not compost because of Co2, a great option to consider would be using Compost Worms instead.  They will very happily eat all of the cardboard, paper, and kitchen scraps you can give them.  
I’ve been vermicomposting for a while now, and I just love my little guys.  They’re very easy to keep, and they are certainly the most productive members of my household!  They just work and work, quietly turning all of my family’s garbage into the best garden soil ever.
Hope that helps.  :)
Wrennerd Wrennerd
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Just guessing here, but I'd assume that cardboard is further down the paper food chain and probably can't be recycled many more times, whereas white office paper might get more reuses before becoming compost. My guess is that it'd be better to recycle office paper, and that it wouldn't compost very well anyway...
Dora Dora
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

In reply to this post by Reed
what i'm really trying to do is figure out the most effective, efficient, and low-time way to turn my kitchen scraps into fertilizer for my garden. ideally, i'd like to have a closed system: the plants produce veggies that i eat, then i use the scraps for veggie broth, then i compost them and use the compost for fertilizer, which helps new plants grow (along with the seeds from last season's plants, if necessary). any ideas on the best way to go about doing this?
Reed Reed
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Okay, so I admit that I am completely biased, :) but worms are sooo easy.  I put food in their bin once a week(ish), I harvest the fertilizer two or three times a year, and I put almost zero food waste in the trash.  The worms eat it all, easy-peasy :).  As a bonus, they eat a lot of my card board and news paper too.
Otherwise, hot composting is the only other thing that I can think of (cold composting kitchen food scraps would probably just end up feeding the local wildlife).  Hot composting can be a lot of fun too, but it does require (IMHO) more space, time and effort than worms.
Lots of great people on this forum though, so someone will probably have some much better ideas!
reed reed
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

I’ve been trying to think of any other possible options and finally came up with a couple, as well as remembered someone else’s.  Mine aren’t really ideal, but you never know what might strike a chord for someone somewhere :)

The first I thought of was the Naturemill composter.  It is touted as an inside electric composter that is designed for kitchen scraps.  I have one.  I don’t know if I’d recommend it though.  I have gotten it to work well for me but it has been tricky.  (IMO) it’s workable range is extremely limited, the end product is not actually compost (more like slightly aged sawdust), and it was insanely overpriced for what it can actually do.  I saved for three years, actually rolled pennies etc., and it has not (IMO) ended up resembling anything like what the company said it should.  The worms compost circles around it.  Ah well, live and learn.  And maybe it would be great for someone else, like I said, I do use it.

The second thing I thought of—also not an option for everyone: chickens (think urban homesteading rather than fried).  Apparently, they are the world’s best composters.  They eat everything (meat, grease, and all).

Third was KarinSDCA’s excellent method mentioned on this site; probably the best solution for a lot of people.  She buries the scraps directly in the ground (with worms in-ground I think) and said that her plants have never been happier.  It is in the post titled, “Getting Rid of Pests in the Compost.”
 http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/p/forum.html

Hopefully something here will be helpful for someone :)
Dora Dora
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

reed, thank you for all your advice. someone in my neighborhood was freecycling a composting tumbler, so I ended up going with that. I figure if that doesn't work, then at least I haven't lost any money on it.
Sandra Sandra
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

In reply to this post by reed
Thanks, Reed, for the feedback on the Naturemill composter. I've been carefully considering whether or not to invest in one, and your experience with the composter has been helpful. My town does not yet offer compost pick-up, so I've been looking for alternatives to compost meat and other things that cannot be put in a home compost bin.
reed reed
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Hi Dora, I hope the tumbler works really well for you :)  Yay freecycle!

Hi Sandra, my town doesn’t offer compost pick-up either.  When you say “recycle” around here, people think “Why ride your bike down the same street twice?  Just drive!”  ;)

I was really hoping the Naturemill could fix that composting meat dilemma too, but after several months of trying and tweaking, I just couldn’t make that work.  Perhaps others have had better luck?

 So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with a solution that works pretty well for our household: I give it to the worms.  This is not generally recommended in vermiculture, but I thought that I remembered Mary Appelhof saying it could be done.  So I re-read her book, “Worms Eat My Garbage,” and was right.  She does say it can be done-- you just have to be careful about it.

So, I’ve been dabbling with it since about the beginning of the year and have been really surprised at how okay it’s been so far (knock on wood).  But I’ve been pretty cautious about it.  Also, I have a well established bin with a big herd and some pretty stringent rules.  We’ll see how it goes…

I keep saying that it would be so much simpler to just “compost” it through the dog, but my DS, who’s a vet, just won’t hear of it, lol!
Sandra Sandra
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Hi, Reed. "Why ride your bike down the same street twice?" Haha, very funny;) Your idea of composting meat with worms sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to check out Mary Appelhof's book. I hope you'll keep us updated on how it is working out. Do you compost both cooked and raw meats with the worms? What about fish? Bones?

On a related note, I think you mentioned in another post that you also compost 'wet' kitty litter waste. Is that also by using worm compost? I'd really like to find a workable solution for reducing the amount of kitty litter waste we produce in our household. I considered burying the litter in an unused section of the yard but was discouraged from doing so after being warned of potentially contaminating the soil with cat-borne parasites. Not sure how much of an issue this is with an indoor cat that eats only cooked foods, but I guess it's better to err on the side of caution?
reed reed
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Hi Sandra,
Yep, my town is definitely not on the cutting edge  ;)

I only give the worms cooked meat, and I blend it up in the food processor before putting it in the bin.  If I have raw scraps left over from the food prep, I just toss them in on the side of the dish before cooking and pull them back out before serving.  It seems to take them approximately two weeks to process about a cup or two of blended meat.  Haven’t tried fish yet, mostly beef and chicken so far.  I did give them a duck carcass though, after I had used it for everything that I could.  After three weeks, the bones were totally clean.  I removed them and am going to try (try being the operative word here ;) to pound them into bone meal for the garden like Mary Appelhoff did.  Now where did I leave my anvil?

I don’t give the wet kitty litter to the worms.  I decided to try to “hot” compost it instead.  “Hot” composting is different than “passive,” or “cold,” composting.  The heat generated can (they say) kill weed seeds and many pathogens and bacteria.  But being only wet litter, (I think) there shouldn’t be too much potential for pathogens to begin with (I think that is more associated with solid waste, but don’t quote me).  The finished compost from that pile won’t go anywhere near veggies just in case.  I will give it to my Meadow Monsters (ten foot tall native prairie flowers at the back of the garden).  They gobble up any compost I can throw their way!
 
Everything’s a work in progress :)
Sandra Sandra
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Thanks for your feedback, Reed! I've reserved the Appelhoff book from the library and will be reading up on meat and bone composting soon.

Hot composting the kitty litter sounds like an interesting idea. At this point, I'm not sure my outdoor compost bin is reaching a high enough temperature to be considered 'hot' composting. What conditions are needed to create a hot composting pile?
reed reed
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Sorry it took so long to respond, I wasn’t positive about the specifics so I wanted to find info that I felt I could trust.  Found the following by Elaine Ingham (very well respected in the field):

“The pile must stay between 135°F and 160°F for three days. At 135°F, weed seeds, human pathogens, most plant pathogens, and most root-feeding nematodes are killed. The pile shouldn't go above 160°F because at that temperature large numbers of the beneficial organisms begin to be killed.”
http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/brewing-compost-tea.aspx

It’s from a good article on AACT (Actively Aerated Compost Tea).  So many projects, so little time!

P.S. Hope you liked the Appelhof book!
Sandra Sandra
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Thank you for taking the time to look up this info. It's much appreciated:)

The Appelhof book is wonderful. Very informative and easy to read. Thanks again for the great recommendation. I'm excited about starting a meat-composting worm bin. Lots of projects to work on this summer;)
KarinSDCA KarinSDCA
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

Aren't there always soooo many fun projects??? I am researching for my newest gardening project right now and I have a TALL stack of books I *already own* that I am working my way through. I don't usually buy that many books, so I found it quite eye-opening to see them all gathered together and stacked up. :O

I am aiming to grow mostly herbs in the front yard that will attract butterflies and supply us with "medicine". I have a large collection of natural healing books! However, the first step is to build up the soil, so I am looking at different plants first to put more nitrogen into the ground and reserving one area for composting in the ground. All the while keeping my fairly new roses happy while removing the awful ivy our HOA planted and slowly replacing boring bushes. Lastly, we need some tall plants to provide shade. All in a rather small area, but bigger than our backyard where I have managed to grow a TON of veggies and fruits and herbs. I have had to move the composting zones outside our back gate lately, though. Our raspberry cane decided to jump out of the container and into the compost zone and now I cannot find the ground anymore, let alone find a spot between the plants! LOL
Claire Claire
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Re: recycling vs composting paper and cardboard

In reply to this post by reed
An additional benefit to chicken: they eat ticks. A big plus in New England and in my town. Why don't I have chicken yet? Long story...  need to work on that problem I have with feathered animals.