Some paper is unrecyclable, but that doesn’t mean you have to trash it

October 16, 2012

A second life for potato bags, sugar bags and more!

I love potatoes, but unfortunately the paper bags they come in are not recyclable: they’re made of a special kind of paper because regular paper is just not strong enough.  The same goes for the packaging of other products like sugar: paper, but not recyclable.  So how to keep them out of the trash stream?

If you have a wood stove, here’s an option to consider: rip the mesh window out of your potato bag (because it’s not made of paper and definitely shouldn’t be burned) and use the bag as a fire starter.  The same can be done for sugar bags.  And if you’re ‘hardcore’ about reducing the amount of trash you generate, you can also separate out other types of paper that are not recyclable but are good for burning (for example, the waxy paper under pizzas or around sub sandwiches; most cash register tapes), stuff them into your potato bag and voila: an easy way to get your wood stove started.  If you don’t have a wood stove, maybe you know someone who does.

Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Please use paper only for starting fires, not as a replacement for well-dried firewood.
  • Keep stove emissions low by proper burning practices; Natural Resources Canada’s Guide to Residential Wood Heating is a good resource
  • If you’re in the market for a stove, choose a model that is EPA-certified for cleaner burning
  • If you’re unsure about the recyclability of any type of paper, you can do a quick check on the internet or with local authorities.  (Or send me a note and I’ll do my best to help.)

It’s true that burning non-recyclable paper is not a perfect solution, but by most accounts it’s better than burying it in a landfill.  And – it’s a bit of free heat as the heating season nears.

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