Last night, Victor and I and a few of our friends participated in our local pub quiz. Though we sadly didn’t rank in the top five teams, we had a great team name (Nation of Quizlam) and a great time. As it happens, an entire round of the quiz was dedicated to questions about the Federal Reserve (a challenging but usefully educational category). Our favorite question? “How does the Fed dispose of old money removed from circulation?”
My guess was bury it. What’s more American than a landfill? But the team overrode me and went with incinerate. When they announced the answer—bury it—we were a bit ashamed to have gotten wrong the one and only trash question of the night. At least, Vic and I consoled ourselves, we got a blog post out of the embarrassment.
Poking around the Internet this morning, though, I see that “bury it” isn’t quite right either. Yes, lots of old cash is shredded and packed into briquettes that get landfilled. But some old money, it turns out, gets recycled. According to The New York Times, since the mid-nineties regional Federal Reserve banks have negotiated deals with companies that could use large amounts of shredded material for stuffing, roofing and who knows what else. The Fed allows any use short of advertising or confetti. I recommend clicking through to the Times article. There are some interesting factoids to be found there. For instance, the reason we didn’t recycle money earlier is because the ink used to contain lead; newer old bills, while lead-free, still hold too many chemicals to be used for just anything (shredded money is no good for animal bedding, for example, some breeders tried that and found it gave horses rashes).