The things you learn

At Washingtonian, I always said that anyone inspecting our Google history would be totally confused. Editors and fact checkers doing their jobs would click on whitehouse dot gov one minute, whitehouse dot com the next, followed by sites about frogs, glassblowing, the Holocaust, Lisa Simpson, and Ali Wentworth. Huh?

Likewise, generalists – or even writers/editors who switch specialties – get to know a lot of random facts about a lot of random things. Nonwriters might find some of these boring. For instance, nine interviews into this Scrap magazine assignment, I was explaining to a friend last night about the dangers of biodegradable plastic bags. They sound benign, even environmentally helpful. But people are putting them in recycle boxes with their grocery bags. Do you want to drive down the road behind a load of bricks secured by plastic strapping made with some unknown portion of biodegradable material?

Or how about this: A bottle and its cap are usually different kinds of plastic. I’m embarrassed to have learned that only a few months ago. What I learned this week is that the label on a bottle may be yet another kind of plastic – and it could make the whole bottle all but useless to a recycler. Depending on the label, the company may have to sell that bottle to China, which uses more mixed (or contaminated) plastics than companies can here in the States.

Boring? Are you kidding? This stuff is just part of what makes our work so interesting.

Copyright 2011 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

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