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Urban Renewal

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Recycling: A Classic Favorite

Recycling allows new products to be made out of used materials. Not only does recycling keep useful materials out of landfills, it reduces the need for new raw materials and the resulting pollution created in processing them.

Garden row markers

Photo by Stephanie Staton

Use plastic knives as garden row markers.

Critics argue that in some instances, more energy is used in the recycling process than in the creation of new items, but there’s no argument about recycling’s ability to keep certain waste items out of the landfill.

Recycling glass, aluminum, steel, plastic and paper is mandatory in some communities, and following the rules and regulations of your recycling processor is essential to keep the whole process rolling along smoothly. If bottles need to be rinsed and their lids removed, then do it. If newspaper needs to be collected in a paper bag versus being tied with a string, then do it. What’s the use of recycling if you aren’t going to cooperate with the company that’s making it all happen?

Although you can’t turn a plastic soda bottle into a ketchup container by yourself, you can turn a substantial amount of your home’s garbage into a useful, recycled product. Yard and garden waste accounts for up to 19 percent of the waste stream according to the EPA. Leaves, grass, plant trimmings and light brush are not trash and should not be taken to the curb. Instead, compost them. Many communities and, in some cases, entire states (including West Virginia and Florida), now mandate yard waste be recycled instead of landfilled.

Black Gold

Making compost is easy and thrifty, and there are a lot of ways to do it. Anything that once was living will eventually turn into compost. It’s the result of insects, bacteria, fungus and earthworms devouring and processing the materials. Eventually, all this yard waste is processed into finished compost that’s used to mulch gardens, amend soil and feed plants.

How long this procedure takes depends on the amount of effort devoted to it. It’s possible to have finished compost ready to spread on your yard and garden in as little as two months, but even casual composters can create it in a year.

First, decide where you’d like to compost your yard waste. There are a variety of commercial bins and compost tumblers on the market. Because turning your compost can make it decompose up to 50 percent faster (it introduces much-needed air to the microbes), have your bin located somewhere that’s easily accessible. There’s also the pile-it-up-in-the-corner-and-wait method. It takes a while for the materials to break down, but it sure is easy.

Read more about how to make organic compost.

Unfortunately, many horticultural plastics, like nursery pots and flats, are not recyclable in most states, though some nurseries will take them back for sterilization and reuse. Lamp’l suggests only buying plants in pots made from biodegradable materials. Containers constructed of rice hulls, composted cow manure, peat moss and pressed paper pulp are all good options and can be planted in the ground with the plant.

“Assert your convictions to nurseries and garden centers to supply plants from growers that use biodegradable pots and cell packs,” Lamp’l says. As with many eco-friendly options, the more we ask for them, the more widely available they’ll become.

A Better Home

By following the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra, your urban farm becomes a better place. Your footprint gets smaller, your budget gets wiser, your land gets richer and, perhaps most importantly, your life gets deeper.

About the Author: Jessica Walliser is the author of Grow Organic: Over 250 Tips and Recipes for Growing Flowers, Veggies, Lawns and More (St. Lynns Press, 2007). She lives and gardens in Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared in the premier issue of Urban Farm.

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Give us your opinion on Urban Renewal.
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We've been working at making our home as eco-friendly as possible. We shred our paper and cardboard and compost it. We compost all our yard and garden trimmings and food wastes from the kitchen. We recycle and use things as many times as possible before we actually through them away.

It's a learning curve, but not one that is too steep.
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 9/25/2011 8:51:52 PM

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