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Glossy paper composting results  RSS feed

 
Jennifer Jennings
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Location: 39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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If anyone stumbles across info on documented glossy/magazine paper composting, please contact me. Chemical analysis of the finished compost, as well as the ratios of compost ingredients are a bonus, but I'll take any available research studies (complete or incomplete).

Glossy paper is a pretty huge input (thanks to junk mail), and I would love to find some science backing up geoff lawton's claim that humic acids and bacterias bind the toxins to the carbon molecule, making it inert (video of that here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_aa0kpKsRQ). Geoff was speaking in terms of other types of toxins, but I'd like to see specifics on glossy paper composting.

Conversely, if anyone can suggest a good lab for soil analysis of the chemicals used in glossy paper production, that would also be helpful. If I don't find enough info, I might take on this project myself just so I can finally have the research information.
 
allen lumley
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Jennifer Jennings : I freely admit that my information may be a little dated, but i have worked in the paper making craft ! Almost all of the Glossy part is Kaolin
also known as clay, You may also have some batches that are high in Titanium Dioxides, these are brought to the Paper making Facilities in Exactly the same type
of Railroad car that is in the news when used to haul crude oil! Neither of these Products will explode !

Regular wood pulp, which is the major fiber component in Paper is heavily bleached to Give it a white color,(its natural color is about like Apple sauce )

This bleaching produces dioxins and major traces of many different types of Chlorines. This is why you are told that if you are a coffee drinker, un-bleached coffee
filters are better for you !

I have and probably will use unbleached cardboard as a sheet mulch, and am not very worried about the chemicals.

Glossy Mags are very hard to breakdown, shredding would help, The best use I have found for Gloosy paper is as an additional layer between Roof boards and a
sealing membrane !

Hope this helps a little ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Michael Vormwald
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Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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I have also read that the inks used for glossy paper are less than desirable so the glossy paper is best recycled rather than composted.
 
John Elliott
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allen lumley wrote:
Glossy Mags are very hard to breakdown,


Not for my biochar barrel. It has the capacity to render a lot of the nasties that Big Al mentioned "composted". I'm still in the process of evaluating this biochar product that has kaolin incorporated into it, but it looks promising.
 
Jennifer Jennings
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Location: 39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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Agreed, Big Al - that is what all my research has said thus far as well. The kaolin component may actually help in super sandy soils devoid of clay, but probably only if you're doing HUGE amounts of glossy paper composting.

I have incorporated glossy shredded paper as a weed barrier/moisture saver underneath my non-veggies (roses, etc.) but I've not done any paul stamets-style studies. I imagine it would not be difficult once the testing parameters were established to get values on the paper contents (chemicals, kaolin, etc) and the finished mulch product.

I agree that recycling is a much better option, but for those that are lacking in the carbon components for proper composting (which is always the larger than the nitrogen component) this could provide the final word on glossy paper composting and open the doors for using it in food beds, if it proves safe.

John, your biochar notion is duly noted - there should be studies on that too!

If you feel this is worth a bump (!), give it one - I'd feel funny about bumping up my own topic, and I think we need more exposure/voices/science.
 
Leila Rich
steward
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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allen lumley wrote: Almost all of the Glossy part is Kaolin
That's definitely the case in NZ and I assume generally-
I suspect more for economic rather than environmental reasons
allen lumley wrote:Glossy Mags are very hard to breakdown, shredding would help
In my experience, compost worms love glossy paper.
If I put any in the compost I tear it up roughly and try to mix it in a bit,
otherwise it tends to laminate together in an anaerobic, perfectly preserved wad...
Michael Vormwald wrote:I have also read that the inks used for glossy paper are less than desirable so the glossy paper is best recycled rather than composted.

I researched the heck out of this glossy paper/ink thing a while ago and at least in NZ
pretty much all inks are soy based except flouros and metallics.
Soy of course is another whole minefield...
All that aside, I'd love to see some really high-quality scientific trials!
 
Jennifer Jennings
Posts: 99
Location: 39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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Thanks all for the flagging, and (Leila) for your input from NZ!

It looks like the only way to get results of any sort is to just "do it," so I'm crafting a trial process now. Again, all input is appreciated, as is suggestions for testing labs/facilities, etc. Still haven't found any research on the ability to make toxins inert yet. Might call up Vermont Compost and see who he's using to test his stuff. Keep the ideas coming...I think this could really be important for the carbon poor farmer.
 
Ardilla Esch
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Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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Jennifer Jennings wrote: Conversely, if anyone can suggest a good lab for soil analysis of the chemicals used in glossy paper production, that would also be helpful. If I don't find enough info, I might take on this project myself just so I can finally have the research information.


You can call an environmental analysis laboratory near you and ask them if they do dioxin, metals, etc. Even if they don't, they should know who does.

The big problem with dioxin analysis is the cost. The lab I frequently use for my work charges $120 for dioxin screen and $400 for dioxin analysis. These costs are on the low side of typical costs. The screen test basically identifies the presence/absence of dioxin related peaks on the gas chromatography spectrogram. The more expensive analysis gives you actual concentrations of the various dioxin compounds. The screen can actually be more sensitive because the practical quantitation limit (the minimum concentration given in a report) is higher than the method detection limit (lowest concentration detectable with some uncertainty). Metals analysis is cheaper but can add up depending on how many different metals you want to test. The best test would be to analyze the uncomposted feed stock (glossy paper) and the final compost. That doubles the lab bill.

There is a good chance some or most of the compounds would be not detectable in the feed stock. Then you have less to worry about except for the potential concentrating effects of composting (primarily a concern with heavy metals).

I am not suggesting composting glossy paper is bad. I am just saying that laboratory confirmation gets expensive. I get people calling me fairly frequently saying "I want my _____ (water, soil, air, etc.) tested". The next logical question is 'what do you want it tested for?'. If the person comes back with a whole list of things they want tested - the cost is usually higher than their interest in seeing the results. The most expensive things to test are generally the semi-volatile, organic toxic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, PCBs, dioxins...). There are a number of reasons for this that are too boring to go into - however it is a reality.

Geoff Lawton's explanation of making the compounds "inert" is oversimplified. Most often biological remediation of these contaminants breaks them into other compounds that are degradation products. These degradation products are typically less of a concern than the parent compound. The breakdown is usually accomplished by bacteria (and fungi) that use the organic molecules as food and metabolize them. The toxins that are persistent in the environment are that way generally because the bacteria find them difficult to digest compared to other compounds available.
 
Jennifer Jennings
Posts: 99
Location: 39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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Thank you so much, Ardilla - your explanation was excellent!

I understand all too well the kind of lab costs we might be looking at; we do a foot detox treatment in my spa that the clients swear works for them but I've not been able to put the water through testing for the exact same reason - it's almost $800 per sample ($1600 for control and after sample) to sort out what (if anything) exactly has been removed from the client. A Home Depot water test won't do for what we're looking for, and I doubted our compost would be any different. Thank you for all your insights.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Jennifer Jennings wrote:

I understand all too well the kind of lab costs we might be looking at; we do a foot detox treatment in my spa that the clients swear works for them but I've not been able to put the water through testing for the exact same reason - it's almost $800 per sample ($1600 for control and after sample) to sort out what (if anything) exactly has been removed from the client.


Ben Goldacre's book "Bad Science" looks specifically at foot detox treatments as one of his examples of bad science. The water goes brown and gunky looking after treatment so it must be taking toxins from the client right? Except that the water goes brown and gunky during "treatment" even if they don't put their feet in. Well worth a read.

Frankly I think that book should be compulsory reading for everyone, especially journalists and politicians.
 
Jennifer Jennings
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Location: 39.720014, -74.875139 - Waterford Works, NJ
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Ben Goldacre's book "Bad Science" looks specifically at foot detox treatments as one of his examples of bad science. The water goes brown and gunky looking after treatment so it must be taking toxins from the client right? Except that the water goes brown and gunky during "treatment" even if they don't put their feet in. Well worth a read.


Actually, Michael, you might be assuming a few things; I have read that book (on my shelf right now, in fact) and while Goldacre does a fair job of proving his point, he also focuses on that point to the exclusion of all else. I am hyperaware of the incredible amount of bad science in the healthcare field and I deal with the damage done by it every day ( like terminal cancer patients who were told shark cartilage would save their lives, for example). My business staying open, profitable, and reputable depends on both scientific and empiric evidenciary practices - and I will not have it any other way.

So, before we bought our detox unit, we extensively tested it with using water from multiple residences (where the water quality had been recently tested), public water sources, and distilled water. We tested each of these without any human interaction to determine if there was any coloration or change in water viscosity or behavior. There was no reaction to any of the water with the exception of a well water sample that was known to be heavy in iron (which created a slight orange color).

After that trial, we recruited a sample group of 30 clients (15 men, 15 women) who agreed to try the detox unit. We did not tell them what it did, nor what was expected to happen. We already had health histories on them all as well. We required that their lower legs and feet were to have no lotions, perfumes, or creams of any kind. The sessions were timed exactly, before and after photos were taken of the water, and seperate photos of the water (in sample glasses against a white background for color accuracy) were also taken. Each sample was labeled with the number of the client (no names were used) to compare against their known health information.

While we did not test the water in a lab, the empiric results were striking. The water samples ranged from pale rust to brown-black, and the client with the brown-black water later changed their diet by eliminating processed foods and re-tested a medium rust color. Additionally, the after-test questionnaires we received recorded a varied and interesting number of post-test reactions, including a feeling of general wellness, fewer headaches, better sleep, less hayfever, and improved restless leg syndrome. Two out of the 30 noticed no perceptible change.

With results like those, I was comfortable purchasing the unit and offering it as one of our spa modalities. It will stay there until such time as our clients feel they no longer benefit from it...but our clients undergoing chemo swear by it. That is the scientific testing that I require.

There are many things that we have an inability to explain with math at the moment, but that does not mean these things do not work or exist. In those situations, I defer to the human experience and empirical observation - which is the core of permaculture, is it not? - until such time as the math proves or disproves otherwise.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
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