Waxed Paper

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I made dirt! I spread my first compost bin of rich, black humus around the garden last weekend, and was amazed to find no evidence of all the paper towels and waxed paper I'd thrown in over the past six months. This led me to do some further reading about waxed paper. Vegetable or soy-based waxed paper is biodegradable, renewable, and good for the planet, your garden, and you. The brand I buy is made by If You Care. Their waxed paper is unbleached, coated with soybean wax, and completely safe, non-toxic, and biodegradable. The other kinds of waxed paper out there are coated with paraffin wax or plastic, and while paraffin (unlike plastic) will biodegrade as well, it is a petroleum by-product and should be avoided as it's made from non-renewable resources and potentially toxic (avoid paraffin candles, too--think about what you're burning in your home!).

It was after reading Ken Thompson's Compost: the natural way to make food for your garden that I first learned that waxed paper is biodegradable, however, I didn't know the difference between natural, paraffin, or plastic waxed papers. It's one thing to know you can compost waxed paper, and quite another to know what kinds of waxed paper you should be composting. I think with any product, thinking about how it's made helps. Choosing to buy products that are clean, safe, biodegradable, and made with renewable resources over those that aren't, especially when those products are used every day and come into close contact with our food, makes a big difference in the long run to our health and our planet. Plastic wrap is used without a second thought in many homes. Julie Todd uses this example in her article, Green Product Saturdays: Waxed Paper, of the potential risks to using plastic wrap in the kitchen:

Don't believe me? Stick a piece of plastic wrap against some tomato sauce and stick it in the fridge. Check it in a day. The plastic wrap will have taken on some of the tomato color. If the tomato is leaching into the plastic in a cold setting, what is the plastic doing to the tomato in a hot setting?

To eliminate garbage, support products made using renewable resources, and have the assurance that you are choosing a safe product that comes into daily contact with the food you eat, choose vegetable or soy-based waxed paper that is unbleached. You will pay a little extra at the grocery store, but this is a product where environmental benefits trump economical drawbacks. In addition, it breaks down quickly in the compost bin, becoming yet one more product that you can turn into food for your garden instead of methane-producing garbage in the landfill.

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