Sunday, January 24, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

Household Environmentalist

Burning Newspaper Logs Causes Air Pollution And Is Illegal

DEAR MS. H.E.: We have been recycling our newspapers by rolling them into paper logs, soaking them in water and a small amount of detergent (to keep the fly ash down). We dry them completely, then burn them in our fireplace. What effect does this have on the environment?

DEAR READER: I'm afraid you may be sorry you asked this question. For starters, it's illegal. Washington state regulation WAC 173-433- 120 (I throw this in for you policy types) states that paper is to be used only for starting fires; it is not an approved fuel. The reason burning compressed paper as fuel is illegal is because it contributes significantly to dangerous air pollution in your neighborhood.

Of eight fuel types rated by the Environmental Protection Agency, newspaper logs ranked third worst for particulates (tiny particles that float around in the air and cause big problems for asthmatics and others with respiratory conditions), and worst of all for carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas that causes problems for everyone). And although black ink burns fairly completely, toxic metals such as lead, chromium and cadmium commonly found in colored ink supplements can go up your chimney to redeposit in the neighborhood.

Last but not least, newspaper recycling in Washington state is finally going gangbusters. Recyclers need your newsprint. Don't burn it up!

Though we tend to think of wood smoke as something natural, organic, romantic, it is contributing to serious air pollution problems in communities around the country. According to Jamie Craighill, state Department of Ecology woodstove coordinator, fireplaces and woodstove owners must learn to use them as cleanly as possible. To receive free pamphlets with instructions on woodstove use and health effects, call her at 1-800-523-4636 and leave your name and address on her machine. For more information on fuel efficiency, call the Energy Extension Service's Energy Hotline, at 1-800-962-9731.

DEAR MS. H.E.: My 3-year-old just winged his plastic Winnie-the-Pooh bowl against the wall and broke it in half. I liked that bowl a lot. Will I poison him if I mend it with super glue and continue to use it?

DEAR READER: The super glue won't kill him, but perhaps it'll do just enough damage to keep him from such destructive hijinks in the future. Ahem. Just kidding, of course. The experts I spoke with seemed to agree that the tiny amount of glue you use won't do him any harm, because you'll put the glue on the skinny edge of the break, and not on the surface of the bowl itself. The solvents that evaporate from super glue so quickly are very irritating, especially to your eyes. But they evaporate quickly, so that if you wait a day to put food in the repaired bowl, chances are good your little angel won't be eating any solvent. The main danger with super glue is that you'll glue yourself to the bowl. But look on the bright side. Your child will have a hard time flinging that bowl next time if you're stuck to it.

DEAR MS. H.E.: I've noticed some containers (such as soft margarine) have a No. 2 on the bottom and a No. 4 on the lid. However, others (such as the Cascade Fresh Yogurt) have a 2 on the bottom and no number on the lid. Is the lid, then, nonrecyclable or a 2? The material feels similar. Is there a regular rule to tell on such items?

DEAR READER: Satshakti Khalsa, the president of Cascade Fresh Yogurt, says the lids are made of the same material as the cups, No. 2, and he hopes they'll be printed with the number any day now. Until they are stamped with the number, however, I suggest you throw them in with your garbage. Sorters at the recycling facilities won't have time to call Khalsa; they'll consider the lids a contaminant and throw them in their trash. Contaminants earn us black marks in the plastics recycling market, and since plastics recycling is financially iffy, we need to keep our recyclables as pure as possible. (Only Nos. 1 and 2 are recyclable curbside in Seattle.)

Chris Luboff, in charge of plastics recycling for the Seattle Solid Waste Utility, offers this rule of thumb: When in doubt, throw it out.

Susan McGrath's column runs every two weeks in the Home/Real Estate section of The Times. Send questions and comments to: The Household Environmentalist, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA, 98111.

Published Correction Date: 02/07/93 - Toxic Metals Largely Have Been Phased Out Of Colored Inks Used In Newspapers, With The Possible Exception Of Some Sunday Supplements Printed On Glossy Paper, According To Representatives Of The Ink Trade. Sources Used For This Story Were Unaware Of This Change.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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