Columns

2013.08.21 I wouldn’t taste that paper if I were you

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

By now, schools in the area have or are about to open for business. I suspect that parents are relieved that back-to-school shopping is over. Maybe I’m wrong on that point—we’re still being bombarded with advertisements for school clothing and supplies. This year, I had to join in on the supply shopping part.

The notebook I use for work is due to run out of pages in a few more weeks. I usually grab one from my supply that I purchased at a local bookstore closing sale a few years ago, but the few I have left aren’t quite suitable for that purpose. So, it was time to go shopping.

I ended up with two different notebooks. One was made in Egypt, of all places. I hadn’t considered that country as a major player in paper manufacturing and a quick look in my almanac confirmed that the production of paper isn’t one of Egypt’s major industries.

Then I noticed that the paper was made from 80 percent sugarcane waste. Another trip to the almanac confirmed that sugarcane isn’t one of of Egypt’s major crops, either. It seems odd that the notebook came from there.

The other notebook was made in Pennsylvania and boasted the slogan “Buy a notebook, save a tree!”  A rather long sales pitch provided with the notebook explained how making paper from sugarcane waste conserves forest land.

However, they didn’t explain why instead of printing this story on a simple extra notebook page they produced a two-color 5 x 11 inch piece of cardboard (glossy on one side) to pat themselves on the back. That’s not very earth friendly. They also didn’t mention how many greenhouse gases were produced by trucking the sugarcane paper to the  factory. I’m pretty sure there’s no locally produced sugarcane in Pennsylvania.

 I had a couple of other questions I e-mailed the company about. I asked if the sugarcane paper tasted sweet and if a customer could eat it safely. They obviously dismissed me as a crackpot—imagine that—but someone from the sales office e-mailed me with an offer to open a corporate account, minimum order $1,500. No, thanks. One offering, though, called “Poo Paper,” caught my eye.

They called it “the ultimate recycled product,” adding that it “uses the fiber that is recovered from actual animal poo.” Suddenly, I no longer had a desire to taste their products.

However, poo paper does come in your choice of elephant, cow, horse or donkey poo. I wonder if President Obama uses donkey poo paper? Probably not, but I wouldn’t rule out loyal Democrat Joe Biden.

I find it interesting that they don’t have any paper containing fiber recovered from bear poo. I laughed when I typed that. It’s hard to call the excrement of a bear by that word. After all, that famous question isn’t “Does a bear poo in the woods?” I like bears as much as—make that a lot more than—-the average person, but using the words bear and poo in the same sentence strikes me as funny.

Maybe the reason recycled bear excrement isn’t used for school notebooks is that the supply has been monopolized by the bathroom tissue industry. I’m sure most of you have seen the ads for that tissue brand that features a family of cartoon bears. I haven’t heard anything about bears being involved in producing raw (and smelly) material for the tissue manufacturer, but the more I think about it, the more plausible the idea sounds.

In the advertisements, not only is the father bear present and participating in raising the children, a behavior seldom, if ever, found in nature, the bears live in a normal home just like a human family. No outside den dug out of a hill or decaying giant log for this group. So, how does a family of bears raise the cash to own, or at least rent, their own home?

Obviously, the bears must be selling their poo to the tissue manufacturer as raw material, then using the final product as they produce more raw material. I find the whole process very green, even though the cartoon bears are blue and the raw material is, well, you know.

That theory explains the slogan for the product, “Enjoy the go.” Certainly the bears must enjoy the money that “going” brings them. They probably used some of it to buy school notebooks made from sugarcane for the cubs. Any pages the cubs don’t want to keep, they can eat. It’s easier than having to hunt down a picnic basket.

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