Portland: Food Soiled Paper Products Get the Boot

Oregon Convention Center Waste Station


The above waste station was at the Oregon Convention Center.

It seems like they’re a bit more stringent (realistic) with their designations.

“Food Only” is a good one… this is where it’s at these days- composting facilities taking other than just food and yard waste are running into trouble left and right due to hidden plastic contamination (amongst other things).

I think the picture is funny for the “All Other Items” (much more polite than “Landfill”)… take that cardboard coffee sleeve off of that cup first!  That’s valuable carbon right there… as is most of that cup… there must be a way to get plastics phased out of paper products.

Why?  Because there’s certified 100% compostable paper products for all single use items, and every freaking one of them lasts as long as needed for the individual to use them effectively.

PDX Airport Recycling Can

The can pictured above is from the PDX Airport… I can’t help but sneak photos in airports.

This is the first time I’m seeing “NO CUPS” on a recycling can, but I get it- the plastic liners ruin its compostability and its recyclability.

Notice the other thing missing?  No mention of glass.

Glass, the only inert material, is being phased out of view these days.

Now is more important than ever to start picking items one at a time and finding plastic-free alternatives.

Not sure where to start?

Check out Plastic Free by Beth Terry… can’t recommend it highly enough for this.

Paper Skeletons

plastic liner

I took a peek at my curing compost pile recently, and somehow contaminants seem to push their way to the top.

There was a small piece of a styrofoam cup, some plastic film, and then this skeleton of an ice cream carton…or at least most of it.

Where’s the rest of it?

It’s now in my compost in microplastic form.

I always thought I’d just experiment with a variety of items that seemed to consist of just paper, only to find out there’s plastic in there too.

Moral of the story: Be conscious of what “paper” products you add to your compost pile.

If you keep it to paper towels, napkins, tissues and certified compostable products, you should be good to go.

Where is the line drawn?

I doubt my ice cream carton would get recycled.

Is it better to landfill it, or even worse incinerate it?

In other words, should I burn the carton and convert the raw materials into inhalable toxins?  [Attention, “waste-to-energy” troglodytes: this isn’t recycling… just call it what it is.]

Or maybe I should add it to the giant mummification party, squeezing out some methane?

I’m going to use the resulting compost for my garden, but not for growing any food.

It seems like plastics fouling up our soil and water is an ongoing inevitability.

Think about photodegradation of plastics in the environment, or for a more specific example: cigarette butts.

Is composting the paper bit of the carton, landfilling the remaining plastic skeleton and dealing with some microplastics in my compost the best option?  How bad is it?

I’m really looking forward to unveiling my finished compost pile in the fall just to see how much plastic remains… remember all that fast food waste I put in there?

Should be a good one…


The Importance of Covering Food Scraps


bin temp 1
When I went out to the compost pile this past weekend, I noticed that I needed more cover material… how?

It just started getting warmer out, and I noticed that the top of my pile had a lot of bugs flying around… when a pile is covered properly, this won’t happen.

I had been uncovering/depositing without adding new brown material, and since I got lazy this is what happened.

You can see halfway above the compost thermometer that there’s a section of greenish material/hay and then a solid blanket of leaves on top.

I get so happy when I shred a bag of leaves…it gives me several inches of fresh cover, which looks like this:

fresh cover

You’re looking at the solution to most composting issues.

Ample (shredded & dampened) leaf cover on top will:

-Negate any odors
-Kickstart your pile by providing enough carbon for your food scraps
-Insulate the pile (especially in winter, of course)
-Avoid attracting pests, neighbors or pesty neighbors

When making weekly food scrap deposits, dig a hole in the center by pulling back the cover material, dump and cover it up.

Have fun!

Composting Made Simple.