The natural law of ballpoint pens

DEPUTY Mayor Ann Bunnell would be proud of me. Ann says Townsville doesn’t recycle enough. But I’m one of the dedicated few doing the right thing. I even compost all the disgusting leftovers associated with cooking.

But I want a few answers. We are not being told the whole truth about recycling.

Take ballpoint pens. Plastic mostly, with an incy bit of metal on the end and a thin vein of ink running down the middle. Almost entirely non-biodegradable.

Where are they then?

If ballpoint pens last so long why isn’t the city’s landfill choked with the bloody things? How come we don’t skid into our offices, schools and lounge rooms on a logjam of ballpoint pen barrels? Ergo: they must be biodegradable, and your average brick wall and concrete floor is constructed of simple enzymes that digest things of a certain size.

Tables and chairs are safe, but thumb tacks, bobby pins, elastic bands and ballpoint pens are doomed. They touch the floor and dissolve as surely as if you dropped ’em in a vat of acid.

Wool and cotton on the other hand — long considered to be one of the most reliably biodegradable materials on the planet — have certain natural laws of their own. They will biodegrade — but only about 50 per cent successfully. I know this because I have socks.

The natural laws regarding socks state that in contact with washing machines slightly more than 50 per cent of all socks will be digested and spun out via the drain hose. The law is also selective — it will only take slightly more than 50 per cent of each pair, leaving you one sock — with holes in it.

Then there are jars.

Jars are genuinely recyclable if we give them the chance; but most jars are imprisoned for years in secret domestic caches.

My wife has cupboards full of them. She tells me she is recycling these jars. She is not.

Only one in 100 is ever re-used. She has created her own private jar dump. It will be useful one day — in about 2000 years when the archeologists find it.

I don’t even want to talk about plastic bags, which have achieved the nightmare status of cheap, bad sci-fi horror movies.

They breed. Try this: throw out all your plastic bags. Go through your handbags, pockets, cupboards, the third drawer down, garden sheds and garages.

Destroy every plastic bag you find — you could even chuck ‘em in the wheelie bin. Got to bed. In the morning they’ll be back. Two days later they will have doubled. Four days later they will have crept to your bedside while you slept.

Don’t go to bed on the fifth night. You might not wake up.