Sunday, December 20, 2009

What Do You Do with a Newspaper Bag?

Moving toward Zero Trash reminds me of one of Zeno's Paradoxes; it may be impossible to actually get there but the journey is worthwhile, partly because reducing trash really does help the environment we're leaving to our next generation, but also partly because the challenge is fun. Who doesn't like a challenge?

Recently we moved out of an apartment to a house, and this brought  a new set of trash challenges. Today's challenge is that the paper (which formerly was left in front of our apartment door bound with a reusable rubber band) is tossed expertly onto our porch, neatly bagged. This change is obviously necessary because we're soggy, very soggy (I measured 1.5 inches of rain since we've moved, by the simple expedient of leaving an open cooler on the back porch). I had found a lot of alternative uses for the rubber bands, but now I have to think of something to do with the plastic bags.

To its credit, the Seattle Times uses a bag that bears a recycling seal, so with very little effort, I could simply include them in the large, friendly green recycling bin we set out fortnightly. But that seems so unimaginative! Recycling is good but reusing is better; if you can put an item directly to use without sending it through the recycling process, you may be saving even more energy and whatnot.

For me, the solution is easy; I ship about 10 books a day using a nearly carbon-neutral packaging system that starts with wrapping each book in plastic to protect it from water damage. The newspaper bags work well for massmarket paperbacks and some larger sizes, so I'm set: every day, there's usually one the right size to fit in the bag. This is better than recycling since I don't have to save the bags for two weeks, PLUS I save a teeny tiny bit on plastic wrap.

But what do other people do? How do people who don't ship a lot of books handle newspaper bags?

And what do I do when I run out of rubber bands?

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