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concerns with using cardboard/newspaper as a mulch

 
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paul wheaton wrote: I understand that in the permaculture world I am in the minority on this one.  Most permaculture folks are not concerned (including Sepp Holzer, Bill Mollison and Paul Stamets).



I've often wondered why they aren't more concerned. I've even asked an organic farmer who felt it was okay. I might use it for landscaping but not in a food garden.
 
pollinator
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A timely revival of this thread!

It is probably worth bringing up that the widespread finding of PFAS in toilet paper is likely the canary in the coal mine indicating that the recycled paper pulp stream is heavily contaminated. Paper-based food packaging often contains PFAS to prevent grease and liquids seeping through -- when these items enter the paper pulp stream, they are adding to the base load.

The litany of potential negative health effects from consuming PFAS is considerable, and this could be a reason to stop using cardboard in the garden -- particularly pizza boxes, but possibly other types as well.

I do personally use cardboard even so, but as a single application to suppress some of the extremely aggressive grasses we have here while establishing garden paths (not in the main garden beds themselves). I also make sure to never use color-printed cardboard, as the inks are still soy-based, but the pigments often contain lead (white, red, green), mercury (red), cadmium (red, yellow) and copper (blue, green) -- only black ink is relatively safe. Given that cardboard is a recycled material, it will have some quantity of these heavy metals from its recycled post-consumer portion. Use with caution!
 
pollinator
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I totally agree that cardboard, and newspapers are not a really great mulch. Not only there is glue and other icky stuff in there, nowadays, there are also PFAS in some of these water resistant products. I will keep asking for a complete BAN on PFAS.
 
pollinator
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I'm a bit suspicious of cardboard because I did a couple of years in a big box distribution center. The chemical smells that came out of some of those tailors, having just arrived from China, was often to put it mildly, a bit off-putting. Not to mention the chemicals used in case something alive was discovered on opening and it was sealed back up and fumigated.

Even though some, maybe most of it is probably fine, the amount I allow in my garden is, none.
 
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