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Is Newspaper in compost Toxic?


 
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Lius
Rank attained: Silver Birch Tree
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 3:55 pm    Post subject: Is Newspaper in compost Toxic? Reply with quote

I know it sounds like an obsession but I have done some more research on the issue from an Irish point of view as all of the information on line relates to other countries and I plan to use Irish newspaper in my compost.

I contacted one of the largest Irish printing groups who gave me some details on the process and ingredients. The paper they use in newspapers is recycled which is considered safe as paper is primarily made from plants and they do not use coatings on their newspaper. They buy their ink in bulk and I contacted their supplier who is also one of the largest suppliers of newspaper ink in Ireland to get further information.

In Ireland and the UK the ink used in newspapers is the cheaper mineral oil based ink i.e. manufactured from the remaining sludge of oil after it has been refined with resins added (usually bitumen). The black ink which makes up the bulk of the print contains 27% carbon black and various pigments are added to obtain other colours. Carbon is an essential fuel for the composting process. There are no heavy metals used in these inks.

Most composting advocates consider newspaper safe to use in compost but do not provide any facts to back this up. I think they are just going with popular opinion which would be very irresponsible when they are someone like a local authority.

Less than 4% of the newspaper is ink i.e. 4g per kg of newspaper so if you use 50% newspaper in your compost pile you will end-up with 2% ink the finished compost. But here is a cumulative as every time you added composted you add more ink to your soil. Of course plants only take-up what they need / want from the soil so they may very well not take-up any mineral oil. There are studies that show that vegetables grown in heavy metal rich soil do not increased levels in the edible fruits / roots / leaves and this may be the case for mineral oil. Evidence that composting can degrade toxic chemicals is at:- http://www.weblife.org/humanure/chapter3_12.html.

But is the mineral oil ink toxic in the first place?

Test of mineral oil ink on rats and mice at:- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12209169 which summarises as follows:- "evidence for toxicity was limited to decreased body weight gains in females".

Study on the occupational exposure to printing and printing ink at:-
http://www.inchem.org/documents/iarc/vol65/printing.html which did not fine any clear evidence of carcinogenic effects.

But there is a safer and more environmentally friendly ink available which is vegetable oil based ink (e.g. soy). In Ireland vegetable oil based ink is used in magazines and other glossy flyer printing but as these are coated with a waxy clay the do not break-down and cannot be composted at home. Most other European countries have already changed to the more environmentally friendly vegetable oil based inks in their newspapers. Irish gardeners and environmentalists should be demanding that their newspapers be printed using vegetable oil based inks and the EPA and Local Authorities responsible for waste / recycling should be demanding this.

Why take a chance (no matter how small) with our health, demand vegetable oil based ink from your newspapers and save the environment at the same time.
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walltoall
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:50 pm    Post subject: composting paper Reply with quote

Lius and all fans, I've removed my post from this thread and posted it where it should be.
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Last edited by walltoall on Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:06 am; edited 1 time in total
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Lius
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Walltoall,

Asbestos was used for a far longer time than you have composted newspaper and was considered "a very important constituent" of construction for both its insulating and reinforcing properties "with no worries at all about being poisoned." However I'm sure Christy Hennessey would have loved if someone had done due diligence and actually scientifically tested it so that he could have been saved the painful death of lung cancer. Even when concerns were raised if people had insisted on using the safer alternatives Christy's life could have been saved along with thousands of others.

As for feeding Goats with newspaper I think that process could fall into the same territory as feeding offal to Cattle (CJD) or PCB oil (carcinogenic) laced feed to Pigs which all seemed like a good idea at the time.

If you have any scientific evidence I would love to hear it, all that I'm saying is that I would prefer the safer and more environmentally friendly vegetable oil used in the rest of Europe on my composted newspaper rather than crude (mineral) oil sludge being used in Ireland.

Even if mineral oil has not yet been found to be harmful at the 4% ink concentration in newspaper today it is a relatively new addition to our soil and could have a completely different effect when it has accumulated to much higher concentrations in the soil due to constant usage of composted newspaper.
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verge
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lius please do not start another thread on a subject when there is a recent one on the same topic open already...... http://www.gardenplansireland.com/forum/about4706.html
If you are unable to find threads that you have posted in before simply click the profile button at the bottom of one of your posts, then click the "Find all posts by Lius" button to search.

My two cents on the topic.
Are the vegetable oil based inks more expensive than inks currently being used? If so the likes of vegetable oil based inks will be the least of cash strapped newpapers worries, especially the Sunday Tribune.
"If in doubt, leave it out" would be my mantra. But each to their own.

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Last edited by verge on Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Lius
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Verge,

This is the second time that the forum has started a new thread when I was posting a reply on an existing thread; I find the forum a bit awkward to navigate in comparison to other forums I frequent. I will try to do better on the postings.

As for you two cents, If vegetable oil based inks were required by environmental regulation it would not add to "cash strapped newspapers worries" they would all simply pass on the tiny cost increase to the consumer and none of them would be at a disadvantage. Anyway why would we be concerned with the worries of Tony O'Reilly et al ., he could use €500 notes in his compost pile without any worries.

I also feel that your suggestion "If in doubt, leave it out" is not in the spirit of gardeners looking out for each other and for their environment. Should we not be seriously considering an improvement for Irish gardeners such as vegetable oil inks in newspapers as used in other European countries? I'm sure they have not made the change from mineral oil based inks just for fun.

It is widely accepted that there is a basic risk all with any recycling /reuse method as substances considered safe in small quantities in the original product could become dangerous to human health or the environment when concentrations are increased by constant recycling. By only using environmentally friendly, organic or inert indigents in the original product this risk is eliminated no matter how small it may be. Would this not be a good thing for Irish gardeners to pursue?
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verge
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:


Should we not be seriously considering an improvement for Irish gardeners such as vegetable oil inks in newspapers as used in other European countries?


The sad fact is publishers don't create newspapers for our composting pleasure. If you don't compost newspaper then you have nothing to worry about. This thread should rank pretty highly on google for any other worried gardeners who take the time to research before taking the composting leap, it 's informative, so thanks for that.

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Lius
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Verge,

We all know why newspapers are being created and as the moderator you should not mock members like that. And why all the resistance - walltoall removing his post etc, - I would have though that other gardeners would embrace improvements with open arms?

The Dept. of Environment, EPA, local authorities, gardening forums, gardening experts, etc. are all promoting newspaper as a great brown material for compost and that composting is a great way to reuse/recycle kitchen/garden waste and old newspapers thus reducing landfill. I also think composting newspaper is a great idea.

All I'm saying is that why don't the experts and authorities in Ireland demand the safer more environmentally friendly vegetable oil based inks as in many European countries. It seems strange the Irish are happy to take the risk putting mineral oil based inks in their vegetable gardens no matter how small the risk when there is a simple alternative.
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verge
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Verge,

We all know why newspapers are being created and as the moderator you should not mock members like that. And why all the resistance - walltoall removing his post etc, - I would have though that other gardeners would embrace improvements with open arms?


I don't know where you see me mocking you in either of my two posts Lius. "all the resistance" ? Walltoall moved his post to the other thread on the exact same subject you posted on already. I presume he did this for the benefit of the site and to prevent information becoming fragmented across it. He was not ask to move his post through "resistance". I'm sure if he is around in the next few days he will be happy to attest to this

Quote:

All I'm saying is that why don't the experts and authorities in Ireland demand the safer more environmentally friendly vegetable oil based inks as in many European countries. It seems strange the Irish are happy to take the risk putting mineral oil based inks in their vegetable gardens no matter how small the risk when there is a simple alternative.


Yes it seems strange (no mocking). Have you tried contacting any newspaper producers on this issue. Otherwise any other other worried gardeners who take the time to research before taking the composting leap, may stumble across this thread, so thanks for that.

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Lius
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Verge

I did contact the largest newspaper printer in Ireland who put me on to their ink supplier (the largest ink supplier in Ireland). This is how I know mineral oil based inks are used to ptint in newspapers and the reason they gave for using it is because it is cheaper than vegetable oil based ink.

I contacted the EPA who say that recycling / reusing / compost in not part of their remit and is the responsibility of the local authorities. This is where the lack of science begins. I contacted a number of County Councils, they all rely on the (good) bits you see printed in on the internet, stopfoodwaste.ie, CRE, gardening websites, etc. None of them seem to have done the due diligence into mineral v vegetable oil even though they are encouraging gardeners to compost newspapers. There is however quite a bit of research carried out around Europe and the US where they have changed to the use of vegetable oil based ink.
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medieval knievel
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

saw this about mineral oils; i'm not sure how much impact it'd have on composting, but it's an interesting read:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12663183
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Lius
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that medieval knievel, it gives much more weight to what I have read and understand that mineral oil based ink is toxic, after all how could ingesting crude oil sludge possibly be safe.

I'm just not sure if the toxins are significantly reduced or broken-down by composting process and/or the vegetables can take-up toxins from composted newspaper into the edible leaves / roots. Even though there may not be a major problem today in years to come the higher concentrations of mineral oil inks in garden soil due to constant addition of compost made with newspapers could pose a risk.

It would be so much more reassuring if the newspapers in Ireland simply changed over to vegetable oil based inks which must be less toxic and environmentally friendly than mineral oil based ink.
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