Don't Throw that
an ARS soil scientist, was a recycling machine. His specialty
was using different combinations of newspapers, telephone books, yard
waste, chicken litter (poop), and other kinds of paper and waste materials
to grow crops. This type of recycling is called composting.
deceased, worked at ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn,
Alabama. Shortly before Dr. Edward's passing, Dr. Watts went to Alabama
to check out the soil scientist's composting projects and quiz him on
Watts: How do you compost newspapers and phone books?
We mix the paper with chicken litter, waste from local cotton
gins, and refuse such as wallboards (seen in this picture). We had the
phone books shredded and plowed into the soil, so we could use it to grow
corn, soybeans, and cotton.
Watts:Why use all this different stuff?
Dr. Edwards:This shows people how many things
can be composted. No matter where you live, you can find something. We
used mixed solid wastes from farms, cities, and small towns.
Watts: Why recycle? Or compost?
Edwards: Most of the trash is taken to landfills and sometimes property owners have to
pay to take their trash to landfills. In some states it costs $17 a ton.
Landfills are closing in some states because of strict and costly environmental
a quick question for you. How much paper do Americans throw away each
Most people dont recycle
Trash or Treasure
So, before you
throw out the trash, see what you can recycle. Some companies even pay
for phone books, newspapers and aluminum. Does your school have a recycling
program? If not, why dont you and some classmates talk to your teacher
about starting one?
newspaper or even last years telephone directories could turn up
again, Edwards said. He worked with manufacturers and others to
process newspapers, phone books, and other types of waste paper into a
shredded product or pellets.
Gardeners can spread the paper
by hand or mix it in the soil. Here are some ways it can be used:
Medium pellets developed as testing material.
pellets for landscape mulch.
C) Large pellets for erosion control.
D) Small pellets with pigment added for more attractive
Does this stuff work? Edwards tested
shredded newspaper and telephone books on corn, soybeans, cotton, tomatoes,
collards, and other vegetables. Guess what happened when he mixed in compacted
soil? The paper loosened the soil and improved yields of corn
soybeans and cotton.
for chickens, too. The paper pellets form a soft
bedding that is easier on baby chicks bodies and feet than aged
sawdust or other stuff typically used in poultry houses. Farmers said
they like the bedding better and that it does a better job of absorbing
urine and ammonia fumes. These pellets fluff up when they get wet
and absorb 4 to 5 times their weight in water, Edwards said.
Agricultural Research Center built a 2-acre, 77,000 square-foot composting
center. It mainly handles manure and other wastes such as potting soil
and plants. They have an area set aside for research to find out which
blends of materials make the best compost. The compost material will be
used for other ARS projects.
Weaver-Missick, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff
ARS' National Soil Dynamics Laboratory
Keep America Beautiful
Earth to Kids
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