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THE GOODS : ECONOTES : Flipping Floppies Out of the Landfills

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Keep computer disks out of the landfills.

That’s the aim of Eco Discs, a new line of disks made from recycled floppies. They’re a new listing (billed as “retreads for the information highway”) in the current Earth Tools, an environmental-products-catalogue business run by a Sunland couple.

“We saw them this year at Eco Expo,” Stormy S. Knight says. “They’ve been selling well.”

Eco Discs are recycled floppy disks from the computer software industry whose members are stuck with tons of obsolete disks every time they upgrade a program.

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So a Texas company has begun recycling the rejects, which are erased, pre-formatted for IBM or Macintosh, given new labels printed with a vegetable ink, packaged in a recycled box and put on the market. The price is $12 for a box of 3.5-inch disks, which includes 10 formatted disks and a bonus disk with environmental information to be downloaded into your computer for future reference. And although one little disk doesn’t look like a landfill threat, Knight says, billions are another matter.

“People like to buy something they can picture in their mind helping the environment,” she says.

She and her husband, Marc Harris, started Earth Tools four years ago after Earth Day. “We started looking for environmental products and either couldn’t find them or they were priced on the high side,” she says.

They shop at trade, gift and natural-product shows, she says, and offer dozens of environmental products for home, garden, pets and personal care.

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Although the eco market has changed in four years, with mainstream retailers picking up some items, people are still looking for green products, she says.

“If (a product) competes in quality and workability with similar mainstream products and has environmental points, consumers will buy it,” she says.

One of Earth Tools’ most popular items is the cotton mesh GardenSac, used to store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator crisper.

“Customers like them because they don’t have to throw plastic bags away--or save them, which is what environmental people tend to do,” Knight says.

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Other bestsellers, she says, are personal items such as a crystal deodorant stone and a shampoo bar that doesn’t waste a throwaway bottle.

“These are high-quality sensible products,” she says. “People buy items like this over and over again for themselves and to give to their friends.” (Earth Tools information: (800) 825-6460.)

On the Recycling Track

The California Integrated Waste Management Board has announced that the state expects to meet its 1995 mandate to divert 25% of solid waste from landfills, thanks to vigorous city and county recycling programs . . . National Geographic’s recent cover story, a comprehensive look at the national fervor for recycling, reports that the average American family of four now recycles 1,100 pounds of cans, bottles, paper and plastic a year.

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