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Upcycle Your Unrecyclable Paper

November 20, 2008

Flowers, originally uploaded by Quadradinhos de Papel.

Okay perhaps this doesn’t really meet the definition of upcycle but it’s a way to take something destined for the trash and create art with your kids (“kids” meaning your actual children, your friends, or your significant other). After all none of want to grow up, do we?

Some green decisions are easy. I know to avoid plastic bags of all kinds. I can keep the ones I have and wash them but I don’t want to buy any more. Plastic wrap is a no no and aluminum foil should be washed and reused. As long as it’s clean it can also be recycled. But what about parchment paper and wax paper the constant companions of bakers everywhere? Apparently I need to cross them off the grocery list too! Although they can be recycled they aren’t usually accepted at recycling facilities. The problem is the wax or silicon, it’s difficult to separate those from the actual paper. By difficult I mean costly and time consuming. While we all like to think recycling programs exist to do the right thing and save the planet but the reality is they are about making money. That’s the same reason not all recyling facilities accept all plastics regardless of whether or not they are physically recyclable.

Recycling facilities decide what to accept based on what they are capable of processing and what’s going to make them the most money. If there isn’t a large enough demand or a high enough return they won’t recycle things like wax paper or all the different varities of plastic. It’s sad but I understand, they have to make a living too…

Since I can’t recycle these types of paper what can I do with them? I can make art, how cool is that? Most of us have probably preserved leaves with wax paper or dried and pressed flowers (which incidentally can make beautiful placemats or wrapping paper). You could also gather up all your scrap paper and make a centerpiece to decorate your winter dinner table. You may want to clean the wax/parchment paper off first but if not it just adds character :).

If you are thinking about composting, well that seems to be rather complicated. Some people will say it composts just fine and they’ve been doing it for years and others will argue that the wax paper products have absolutely non-compostable synthetic additives to make the wax more water resistant. So it will degrade eventually but do you want that in your soil?

What do you use? What products have you banned from the kitchen because of their impact on the environment?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2008 8:36 am

    I’ve banned plastic containers (I switched to all glass this year). We use only washable dishes & silverware no matter how many guests we have coming over. I’m using up my plastic bags & plastic wrap and foil, and when those are gone they’re banned from the kitchen. I’ve been learning ways to get around using them. I think I’ll be investing in some smaller corningware dishes for that purpose.

    One thing I do still use in parchment paper. I’m an avid baker of breads and I just can’t seem to get by without it. I do reuse each piece until is disintegrating, usually 5-6 times depending on how hot the oven is. I’ll have to try putting them in my compost pile to see if they compost (they’re almost carbon when I’m through with them). I’ve considered buying those silicon mats for my cookie sheets, but I’m a little weirded out by that stuff, I need to read up on it some more.

  2. Christine permalink
    November 24, 2008 4:25 pm

    Switched to glass storage as much as possible, it really cleans so much better then plastic. All real dishes and silverware & cloth napkins. I’m trying to finish the last of the plastic wrap but I hate it now so it’s been over a year in the drawer. I do use some wax paper but when it’s gone I’ll quit and I use recycled aluminum foil. I’ll continue to purchase it when everything else is gone. I still also use parchment paper but I don’t bake much so it’s not excessive. Great Post!

  3. nobody permalink
    November 26, 2008 11:05 am

    I just came across your website while trying to find out if I could compost parchment paper. I guess the jury is still out.

    I have to comment on silicone mats for Suzy:
    I just switched to parchment paper because I couldn’t justify cooking with the silicone mats anymore. I tried them in the first place because I felt bad about throwing things away. But they’re a serious pain to clean; I don’t mind the time, so much as I mind the sheer volume of water involved. They can’t hold water and they don’t fit in the sink so there’s no soaking them unless you soak them in the pan, filling it with dirty water and negating the reason for having them in the first place. Even then, they don’t come clean. In the end, to wash them you use tons of water. I used more water to wash one of those clean than I use for all my dishes for a week. The environmental cost of reusing them seems to dwarf the environmental cost of using something disposable. They aren’t a good general-purpose solution to the baking problem. By all accounts they’re life-savers in the world of gluten free baking, but I don’t have celiac so they’ve been relegated to the bottom back of my cupboard just in case I ever need them for company.

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