Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't eat your paper!

So, here's something that concerns me. I see more and more people making plantable paper these days, and many of these papermakers are adding herb seeds and vegetable seeds to their papers. I never have and never will make plantable paper with seeds that grow into edible plants. Here's why. Paper is made with many plant-based materials, mostly trees, that can be recycled back into soil. But paper also has dyes and chemicals, including additives that seal paper, bleach the paper and make the paper smooth. Now add a seed. When your plantable paper first grows, it does so because the recycled paper around it has swelled with water and the seed has enough moisture (and warmth and light) to begin to germinate. As it germinates, it pulls in the water from the paper and everything that is dissolved in the water. These chemicals are taken into the leaves, stems and flowers of the plant and, presumably, remain there until you eat them. I can't be sure of the amount of chemicals that could be ingested or the effects they might have on an individual but since I try to only buy food that has not been treated with pesticides, I wouldn't want to knowingly sell something that didn't have the standards for my customers that I hold for my own diet.

Because many papermakers use post-consumer waste, junk mail and the like, they can’t be sure of the manufacturing process that the paper underwent before it got to them. This means they don’t know what chemicals have been added to the paper they are using. Here are just some of the possible additives:
* Wet strength additives ensure that when the paper becomes wet, it retains its strength. Typical chemicals used are as epichlorohydrin, melamine, urea formaldehyde and polyimines.
* Internal sizing of paper, which seals paper so that it can be printed on, include alkyl ketene dimerand alkenyl succinic anhydride.
* Caustic soda is added to increase the pH in the pulping process of fibers. The higher pH of the paper fiber solution causes the fibers to smoothen and swell, which is important for the grinding process of the fibers.
* Retention agent is added to bind fillers to the paper. Fillers, such as calcium carbonate, usually have a weak charged surface. The retention agent is a polymer with high cationic, positively charged groups. Polyethyleneimine and polyacrylamide are examples of chemicals used.
* Styrene butadiene latex, Styrene acrylic, dextrin, oxidized starch are used in coatings to bind the filler to the paper.
 Co-Binders, such as starch and also Carboxymethyl cellulose, are used along with the synthetic binders, like styrene acrylic or styrene butadiene.

So maybe just save your herbs for those you buy from the farmer's market and plant yourself, and leave your paper to sprout things that you won't be ingesting.

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