As the BP oil spill continues to spread across the Gulf of Mexico, many frustrated onlookers are looking for some way -- any way -- to help. Much ink has been spilled over the donation of pet hair and human hair to sop up the mess. I received a similar proposal from New York-based consultant Albert Wilking via e-mail last week, wondering if old newsprint and other recycled paper might be repurposed to absorb the oncoming oil:
To Whom it May Concern:
I'm sending this email out to governmental authorities and to paper recyclers.
The question I have is would dumping massive amounts of our paper by products along the gulf shore lines allow the oil to be absorbed and thus prevent it being absorbed into the marshes.
We have at our disposal huge amounts of recycled paper being collected by our existing recycling companies. Would it benefit us to send barges, trucks and trains to the gulf with this paper to dump along the gulf states coastlines?
The possible benefits of creating even more of a mess with the paper is that:
The paper will absorb the oil to some extent.
Oil will be prevented from getting into the very sandy bottom of the marshes where it will be very hard to decompose without sufficient oxygen. If it does get into the sand it may be decades before it biodegrades.
The paper will biodegrade the oil quicker since the paper will encourage bacteria to attack the paper and the oil.
The paper contains oxygen which will be needed to degrade the oil.
Massive amounts of paper will act like natural booms, preventing the oil from being pushed further into marshes.
In shallow water the paper will be easier to collect than in deep water.
He makes some compelling points. Do you think this could be effective or would it just make a bigger mess?