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By LaVerne C. Paulson

Fri, Jan 25th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Of all the materials recycled here in Fillmore County, paper is, by far, the largest component, making up somewhere between forty and fifty percent by weight and volume. Newspaper was the first thing I remember bringing to the recycling center and being paid a few cents per pound. This, to many, seemed to be a much better alternative than adding it to the burn barrel and igniting it with the rest of the household garbage on a regular basis. Today, the Fillmore County Recycling Center still gladly accepts newspaper as well as most other forms of fiber.

Fillmore County’s recyclable fibers include, but are not limited to newspaper, cardboard, boxboard, catalogs, magazines, junk mail, office paper, advertisements, paperback books, hard cover books, paper grocery bags, animal feed bags, school papers, phone books, spiral notebooks, and shredded paper contained in closed paper bags or closed cardboard boxes.

However, not all forms of fiber are recyclable. Recyclable fiber must be clean and dry. The tops of take home pizza boxes are usually soiled, but the sides and bottoms are not. The tops should be placed into landfill garbage, and the rest of the box recycled. Fridge packs of pop and frozen food boxes are meant to withstand the extra moisture often found in a refrigerator or freezer. They are coated with a wax-like substance to keep them from absorbing water and falling apart. This wax covering causes problems in the recycling process making these forms of boxboard unrecyclable at this time.

Envelopes with bubble wrap, laminated paper, used facial tissue and napkins along with paper towels, fast food wrappers, and soiled paper plates are some other examples of fiber not suitable for recycling. Egg cartons have most likely lived their seven lives and cannot be recycled again. They do, however, make great compost material or golf ball containers.

Nearly 40 percent of new paper products is recycled paper. Recycling one ton of paper saves at least 17 trees, 275 pounds of sulfur, 350 pounds of limestone, 9,000 pounds of steam, 225 kilowatt hours of electricity, three cubic feet of landfill space, and at least 5,000 gallons of water. Each year, junk mail delivered throughout the United States, most of which is recyclable, would fill 340,000 garbage trucks if it was deposited in a landfill and not recycled.

Approximately 20 tons of fiber pass through your recycling center each week. All that paper, cardboard, and other recyclable fiber is headed for paper mills in the Twin Cities and throughout the Midwest where it will be ground up, made into a pulp and then into large rolls of paper. New post consumer (recycled) paper products such as newsprint, paper towels, cardboard, cereal boxes, egg cartons, animal bedding, gift boxes, game boards, and toilet tissue will be back in your house in a few short weeks.

By the way, the American Forest and Paper Association has calculated that consumption of recovered paper in the United States during November of 2012 was 2.26 million tons. That most likely saved a sizable chunk of a forest that can be enjoyed by our furry and feathered friends this winter, and possibly even a human or two. I am sure they are all quite appreciative.

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