Recycling can be a confusing mess. So this week we're answering a few Qs of the blue, green and grey bin variety.
Q. Can cotton or other clothing be composted?
A. Thats a toughy. It can certainly be recycled at places like Goodwill and Value Village. Give em your old socks, underwear and holey sweaters, too. They sell these to rag dealers, who turn them into felt for sound insulation, sleeping bags and, um, felt. But I digress. While the city does not accept any clothing in its green bin system, a call to the Composting Council of Canada reveals that natural fibres like wool, cotton and hemp can indeed return to the earth. Okay, so they take a long time to decompose. Best to finely shred the fabric before you toss it in your backyard compost pile. But (and this is a big but) do you really want to use the resulting soil, knowing that tons of synthetic dyes, bleaches and chems go into our clothing?
Q. Do you know of any gum whose packaging is entirely recyclable?
A. As a recovering gum addict (I chewed up to a pack a day back in grade 8), I understand your waste dilemma. The only gum in stores (even health stores) that comes wrapped in recyclable paper and cardboard without all the extra crap is certain types of Clorets. Virtually every pack of chew on the market, be it Dubble Bubble or Trident, comes wrapped in material that ends up in landfill. If your stick of choice isnt wrapped in foil-lined paper and sealed in cellophane, it probably comes in that new hard-plastic bubble wrap. Either way, none of it can be recycled (except the cardboard part). Places like the Bulk Barn do sell gum in you guessed it bulk (you can bring your own container), but it's the sugary gum-ball variety ($2.20/lb). For recyclable all-natural options, you have to head online. Spry Xylitol gum ($8.25/100-piece jar, see www.homesteadmarket.com) and Peelu Dental sugarless gum ($20.95/300 pieces, see www.peelu.com) are your main options. They cost a little more, but you can chew in peace.
Q. Can tampon applicators and kitty litter marked as flushable really be flushed?
A. One thing everyone should be taught from an early age: never take what you read at face value. Tampon makers try to make you feel like your little plastic applicator is somehow more ecologically sound than others because, according to the label, it can be jettisoned down your toilet. Fat chance. What part of "flushed" don't they understand? Throw that cardboard or plastic applicator down your WC and it eventually ends up in the trash or floating in Lake Ontario. Yes, these plus every other solid thing you toss down there (condoms, kitty litter, drugs) collect in giant (and might I add nasty) filters until all that crap gets pulled out and trucked to Michigan. Why not just throw it in the trash to begin with, especially considering that every time there's a heavy rainfall the sewers overflow, spilling your applicators, condoms, litter and drugs into our bodies of precious fresh water? Not the kind of things you want floating up to your little nephew's feet at the beach.
All kitty litter can and should go in your green bin to be turned into compost. Same goes for soiled menstrual pads and tampons. (Keep a green bin in your bathroom.)
All applicators, condoms and solids in general should go in the trash. No exceptions! Better yet, buy tampons sans applicators, ladies. And boys, order some good biodegradable vegan condoms at www.britishcondoms.com.
Q. Does paper have to be free of oil and food in order to be recycled?
A. The same question crossed my mind every time I saw a greasy pizza box in the grey box. I just assumed the city ended up tossing them out. But the citys recycling department says oily, greasy paper or cardboard is welcome even if a little cheese is stuck to it. Half-eaten slices are best thrown in your compost. The waxy paper liner at the bottom of the box should be green-binned, as should those dirty paper napkins you used to wipe your fingers no matter how filthy they get. Dont forget, youre free to go wild and mix up your grey and blue bin stuff since the city changed its policy.
Q. I've heard that coloured glass isn't recyclable. Why does everyone put it in their blue bins?
A. Youre right that coloured glass isnt recycled into new bottles the way the clear stuff is. But that doesnt mean you should toss it in the trash - especially if youre a wino who goes through a lot of these. All those pretty green and brown bottles do have an afterlife. Theyre ground up and spun into cotton-candy-like fibreglass insulation for your home. Your ground-up Merlot bottles are also used to replace the sand in sandblasting or the backfill around underground cables. Now you know all the gritty details, and maybe youll stop tossing those coloured glass bottles, people! Put them in your blue box.
FYI: Next on city's recycling list: polystyrene. But don't hold your breath unless you have some serious lung capacity. The initiative won't hit the curb till 2007.
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