Reducing Waste In The Kitchen (part I)

by Texas Homesteader
*contains affiliate link

Y’all know I’ve been on a quest to reduce our outgoing household trash for years now. We’ve been pretty successful. As a matter of fact we’ve eliminated the need for a weekly trash pickup to haul our household trash to the dump. There are so many steps we took to reduce our trash output so drastically including the (now 5) R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.  Today I’ll talk about a few ways we’ve been able to very easily yet substantially reduce our trash output from our home’s kitchen.

REDUCING TRASH IN THE KITCHEN to make a huge impact in reducing the amount of landfill trash spilling from your home. It's EASY! #TexasHomesteader

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  • Composting

REDUCING TRASH IN THE KITCHEN to make a huge impact in reducing the amount of landfill trash spilling from your home. It's EASY! #TexasHomesteader

I think first & foremost one of the largest ways we were successful in reducing trash in the kitchen is to turn some of that food waste into something very useful in the garden.

I absolutely love my * compost tumbler –  I’ve written about it lots and yes, I love it that much.  We don’t waste much food at our household but there are always going to be small amounts of food that will need to be disposed of – banana peels, potato peels, orange peels, egg shells and the like. Some of these items go to our goats or chickens but what to do with the rest?

I like to keep my garden as organic as possible so I make my own compost. This kitchen waste coupled with waste paper such as envelopes from the mail, black & white newspaper, shredded paper documents, etc. and a quick turn of my tumbler and I’m well on my way to that rich compost that boosts my garden production. Of course I have ample supply of cow manure to add as well!

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  • Use Cleaning Rags

REDUCING TRASH IN THE KITCHEN to make a huge impact in reducing the amount of landfill trash spilling from your home. It's EASY! #TexasHomesteader

I eliminated paper towels & went to 100% cloth in my kitchen several years ago. But I used to buy those special cloths labeled especially for kitchen cleaning. Of course that was a step in the right direction since those cloths could be washed & reused for quite some time. But I wondered why I would need a special kind of cloth for kitchen use. I started buying bundles of inexpensive washcloths and that was an even better step financially but I wondered… could I do even more?

As it turns out, yes – I started cleaning like grandma always did. I started using cleaning rags instead.

I like to use cotton cloth when I clean. So I’m often cutting an old cotton sock or t-shirt into square to turn it into an absorbent scrubbable 100% cotton cleaning rag. These cleaning rags have also taken the place of paper towels. Although this was a hard one initially for RancherMan, gradually he got used to grabbing the cloth rags instead of paper towels in the kitchen.

And once they have completed their next life as kitchen cleaning rags RancherMan gets them to use in his workshop. So that’s helped his paper towel withdrawal symptoms a lot. Those garage rags can be used to wipe down something greasy & then just be thrown away. I don’t have a problem with this disposal since these rags have migrated down the line in their duty responsibilities:  sock – cleaning cloth – shop rag – before finally being thrown away.

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  • Eliminate Paper Napkins

REDUCING TRASH IN THE KITCHEN to make a huge impact in reducing the amount of landfill trash spilling from your home. It's EASY! #TexasHomesteader

Speaking of paper, since we went paperless in our kitchen several years ago you’d be hard pressed to find a  paper napkin in my kitchen. Our napkins are cloth and some our current cloth napkins have done their job for several years now. They’re not even close to being through with their tour of duty. Cloth napkins are very inexpensive to buy and take up very little space in the washer. So once they’re purchased they are ready & willing to serve for many years.

I even made some adorable red/white gingham napkins from a thrifted tablecloth. Love them, and all 9 of my napkins were made with only the cost of that tablecloth. Yep, one buck!

I do save that one wayward extra unused paper napkin that would have been thrown away when we occasionally stop for a quick burger. Then I bring it home & tuck it into a container in my cabinets so that when a visitor asks wide-eyed “you don’t have ANY napkins??” I can pull one out!  LOL

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  • Repurposing Glass Jars

Repurposing glass jars for storage. REDUCING TRASH IN THE KITCHEN to make a huge impact in reducing the amount of landfill trash spilling from your home. It's EASY! #TexasHomesteader

I’ve really been on a dehydrating kick this year and I’ve dehydrated garden excess as well as great deals I’ve found at the grocery store. Dehydrated produce takes up very little space in my kitchen and it takes no additional energy to store. I use clean glass jars to hold my dehydrated veggies.

Not only do they look beautiful lined up on my pantry shelves, but their glass-jar containers have been repurposed from other food products. No need to buy specialty storage jars for me!

I also reuse wide-mouth jars for leftovers in my refrigerator. Since it’s easy to see through the glass to see the food inside, much less leftover food gets wasted. I pop the last of that chopped onion or the leftover serving of meatloaf into that glass jar & it’s right there in front of me when I open the fridge to see what’s for lunch.

And lastly I use the clean empty plastic peanut butter jars for freezing homemade broth & Ranch-Style Beans. We always have a supply of plastic peanut butter jars and this gives them one more use before being recycled.

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  • Plastic Bags

Y’all know how much I hate plastic! But it seems it’s almost impossible to get away from it these days. So if I’m going to have to bring plastic into my kitchen I’m going to make sure it’s used to it’s fullest.

I reuse the plastic bag that some of my other food comes in. Anything from popcorn bags, heavy zippered cheese bags, tortilla bags and the like. A quick rinse and dry, then they’re folded to await their next usable life.

The larger ones I use to hold homemade bread to keep it nice & fresh. And the smaller ones are used to hold various things. Especially servings of entrees going to the freezer.

Y’all know I use the ‘cook once eat twice’ method of cooking? That’s where I’ll cook a whole oven full of a main dish, then section it out and freeze it in meal-sized servings. Well these smaller plastic bags do that separating for me. I’ll tuck a serving of meatloaf into each of several small bags, place them all in one large freezer bag, pop in a label (because you know all frozen chunks of food look alike) and into the freezer it goes!

Now it’s easy to pull out a meal-sized serving of homemade meatloaf & place it in the fridge the night before. And a homemade supper the next night is quick & easy. Plus those blasted plastic bags I’ve been forced to accept with my food items have received another use before finally being thrown away.

WHEW!  This is turning into a super-long post. I told you there were lots of ways to reduce trash in the kitchen! Stay tuned next week for Reducing Waste In The Kitchen, Part II for five MORE ways to reduce trash in the kitchen.

And please weigh in – what are YOUR secrets for reducing waste?  C’mon don’t be shy, we can all learn from each other.

~TxH~

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75 thoughts on “Reducing Waste In The Kitchen (part I)

  1. Rosie (@greenrosielife)

    Yes yes and yes to all of these suggestions – these should be shown to everyone until we all do them. They are not difficult yet the combined effect on the planet would be huge if everyone started reducing their waste. #WasteLessWednesday

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      You’ve hit the nail on the head Rosie – “They are not difficult yet the combined effect on the planet would be huge if everyone started reducing their waste”. Yes, Yes and Y-E-S!! ~TMH~

      Reply
  2. Alicia Owen

    Great tips! My weakness is paper plates and paper towels. :/ I really need to make some of those un-paper towels. As far as the plates, well, I just really hate washing dishes and need to get over it. lol Other than that, we compost, feed the animals leftovers, and recycle, so we usually only have 2 trash bags every 2 weeks, if that! Thanks for sharing on the Clever Chicks blog hop.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Not everyone will be in the same place or mindset Alicia. Some things that don’t mean as much to me might mean more to you and vice versa. But I think we all can do a little to make a big impact. ~TMH~

      Reply
  3. Judith c

    I started my mission years ago by not buying paper napkins. We use cloth, some were inherited from my mom’s wedding gifts from 1951. Then I moved on to no more paper plates, our silverware was being thrown out with the plates!! Teenagers, that’ll teach them. Now I just have to break the hubby from paper towels. One of these days I’ll just have to tell him they quit carrying them at Sam’s like the plates.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      It’s a constant never-ending supply of rags for us. I just send them to RancherMan’s shop when they get too stained since I know there will always be more coming in as those socks wear out. ~TMH~

      Reply
  4. Bobbie

    Great ideas here, Tammy.
    I have a few that you might like. I know that you have chickens. I “assume” that part of your chicks diet is shells. I have been saving eggs shells and using them this way. When we have eggs or I’m baking, etc. I rinse the shells. Lay them on a cooling rack (small ones I’ve picked up over the years from second-hand stores for cooling cookies and bread), stick the rack of shells under the wood stove to let them dry (until crisp). I purchased a tiny (Walmart, cheap coffee grinder, under $10) just for eggs and banana peels. I put the dry egg shells into a bowl, crush them with my hands and put them in the little coffee grinder cup. Bingo-bango………out comes lovely, fresh, grounds shells for your chickens. Shells are excellent for chickens, but we don’t want them to know they are THEIR egg shells or they will start picking at their own eggs. Another use for these ground egg shells — I store them in a big glass container.
    To this container I add banana peels (dried the same way, under the stove on racks). I crush the dried peels in a bowl, add to the grinder and poof! Wonder ground banana peels. The banana peels and egg shells are added to each plant we put in. Dig your hole, put in a good handful of your ground peels and shells, mix with the soil and plant your veggie or plant as normal. NO MORE BONE MEAL NEEDED HERE!
    This is easy, even if one doesn’t have a wood-burning stove. You can do this the same way in the oven (on low). Or better yet, wait until you used your oven for baking, then after you pull your dish out, stick in your rack of peels and/or shells and use the heat that goes to waste while the oven is cooling. We also save walnut shells and use them in the garden (for walkways).
    I’m picking up some awesome new tips here today. Thank you everyone for contributing along with Tammy and sharing your knowledge with others. It’s truly appreciated here.
    Bobbie

    Reply
  5. Angela

    I found you on Pinterest and I love this post! Recently I have been really trying to reduce our waste and watch what we are throwing away as well. A few years ago we went to all cloth napkins and towels for cleaning. Another tip I didn’t see mentioned is that I save cereal bags, wash them out and use when in need of wax paper. They work great if you need to crush cookies/ crackers because it’s thicker than a Ziploc and doesn’t break up as easily. I also save bread/ bagel/ bun bags for my homemade bread.
    Now I’m going to search the rest of your blog =)

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Well I’m so happy you stopped by Angela! I have a little box that was previously a freezer ziplock bag box that I’ve pulled the top off of so it’s open. I store all kinds of bags there waiting to be reused – bags from rice, bread, cereal, etc. Right now it’s bulging at the seams so I’m starting to be pickier about what bags I save now, but I haven’t bought bags in years – there’s always a plastic bag coming into the house from food we purchase. (did I mention how much I hate plastic bags?? LOL) ~TMR~

      Reply
  6. Kimberly

    Awesome post! Pinned and tweeted. Thank you for taking the time to party with us. We hope to see you tonight at 7 pm. It wouldn’t be a party without you! Lou Lou Girls

    Reply
  7. Terri Presser

    What great ideas you have and I love the idea of going paperless. Thanks for linking up at Good Morning Mondays and for the encouragement to reduce, reuse and recycle. Blessings

    Reply
  8. Rachel

    Great ideas! I reuse bread bags for my baked bread. We keep an extra store bought loaf if Mommy hasn’t gotten around to make fresh bread. For years, we used cloth towels instead of paper towels and sponges. I admit I have went back to using sponges now but paper towels really aren’t necessary. You seem a lot better than me about using jars and I should get on that. Thanks for sharing on Merry Monday!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Ya know Rachel, we all have different needs in the kitchen. I’ve shared some of the ways I’ve reduced waste but others may have other ways. Sounds like you’ve hit a stride that works for you & your family. ~TMR~

      Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I use ziplock bags as well Kristy, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had to buy a new box of them. Our tortillas (which I’ve STILL not mastered making myself) come in zip bags and I use them, sometimes several times if just to store homemade bread, etc. ~TMR~

      Reply
  9. JW

    Oh my, if you saw what I just cleaned my a/c return with, you would probably think I am nuts. I just hate throwing cloth away. While I am folding laundry, I look for tee shirts, socks, underwear that needs to be tossed, but instead I use them to clean with. Oh by the way, I cleaned my a/c return with a pair of underwear of my husbands that has seen better days. Hey, they were clean, but not usable for what he needed. You have a wonderful blog and I enjoy reading your posts. Have a blessed day. Joi

    Reply
  10. Jane

    I just saw this article on the blog hop. I love the ideas you and your readers have shared. Here’s a few I can add as well. 1) When removing labels from jars/bottles you want to re-purpose, soak off as much of the label as you can – in order to dissolve the glue without using chemicals, try smearing on some peanut butter (yes, the stuff you put on bread for a PB&J). I think the oil in the peanuts helps dissolve the glue. Let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes then scrape off – it works most of the time for me. 2) Instead of buying linen napkins, try buying a stack of inexpensive washcloths (I get them on sale at Walmart or other stores in a bundle) – they are soft and easy to wash. When they get pretty raggedy I use them for cleaning. 3) I cut up old t-shirts, make t-shirt yarn out of the body of the shirt and then crochet things like scatter rugs, a cat bed, placemats or dishcloths. The sleeves get recycled to use for odd jobs such as cleaning up spills, dusting, and I use then for cleanup when painting and then toss them. 4) If you use plastic containers for refrigerator storage you know that they get really nasty looking when they have tomato sauce, etc. in them. After transferring any sauce to a pan to reheat (never put plastic in the microwave) in order to get the container to not stain red, put a few drops of dish washing detergent inside and using COLD water and an old cloth, wash out the container. For some reason hot water will set the stains but cold water will not if it’s not already stained. 5) I had an aunt who would take the waxed paper liner out of the cereal boxes, flatten them out and wipe them with a damp cloth and reuse them to store cookies, etc. in. They worked great for anything you would use waxed paper for – do they still line the cereal boxes with it? I haven’t bought cereal in ages.

    I guess I’m in the minority here – I’m 68 and have always tried to be as frugal as possible. I find it a challenge and you young girls always come up with some really interesting ideas. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  11. Brandi Clevinger

    I want to get a compost tumbler. We are a large family and I feel as though those food scraps could be much more useful other than the trash.

    I also reuse my glass containers. I read a tip earlier today that says to paint all the lids the same color. I’m going to do that to make it more uniform.

    I found your post at Inspire Me Mondays!

    Reply
  12. Texas Homesteader Post author

    Reusing plastic containers/bags sure helps us keep our trash down. I remember wondering, if you’ve already got a large plastic bag, why wad it up & throw it in another large bag to dispose of it? ~TMR~

    Reply
  13. Life Breath Present

    All wonderful tips and ones I use quite frequently. We’ve been without paper in the kitchen for quite some time. I do need to make specific napkins though….I’ve never thought to reuse certain plastic containers/bags and I’m going to have to give that tip a try! 🙂

    Reply
  14. JES

    I am loving this new series! We do a lot of similar things… It’s funny because when someone comes over and they have a spill and I reach for a split open old refurbished sock, I do get the weirdest looks 🙂 Let’s see, here are more ideas: I freeze up any extra coffee in cube trays and make blended coffee drinks in the summer. Glass taco sauce bottles are cleaned up and used to store homemade tinctures and such. And we buy a lot in bulk which eliminates excess packaging. Nothing glass gets thrown out, like you, they are wonderful storage containers, drinks on the go cups, etc… I am saving all my empty tin cans (from tuna and such) for when we make our tallow candles too… Thanks for sharing this week on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

    Reply
  15. Gentle Joy

    Great ideas! We do many of these… it used to be a joke with extended family… they would tell each other to make sure to bring your own paper towels to my house because I didn’t buy paper towels! I have started buying them again, but we use them very very sparingly… like we only go through a couple of rolls a year. 🙂 Thank you for the great post.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I haven’t bought paper towels in years, but I get around that this way: When we stop for a quick burger or something I take any napkins we don’t use (there are always a few) and keep them in a little plastic lidded container. The container keeps them crisp & clean & allows me to offer paper that would otherwise just be wasted when a guest requests it for something. So far it’s served me well. ~TMR~

      Reply
  16. Pingback: Making a Home - Homemaking Linky - Linda's Lunacy

  17. Heidi @ Pint Size Farm

    That’s great! We have been using cloth napkins and bags for a while and everything is composted, but I would like to learn how to do more 🙂 Thanks for your homeacre blog hop submission 🙂 Feel free to stop by this week and submit another!

    Reply
  18. sheri

    One of the big toss aways in our kitchen used to be plastic wrap for covering leftovers. We no longer buy it- jars work great, or if something is in a big bowl we just top it with a dinner or salad plate “lid” and it keeps nicely in the fridge. Likewise store veggies wrapped in damp towels instead of in veggie bags. Some get a little limp, but they cook up fine. Love finding ways to eliminate plastic.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Me too Sheri. I remember watching my grandmother cover a bowl of leftover food with a plate or saucer before placing in the fridge, so I started doing that too. You can learn so many frugal things watching past generations. ~TMR~

      Reply
  19. Marla

    You have some great ideas here on stop waste which our society seems to waste so much unnecessary items. Living to support the environment and healthy I believe is part use of everything we can and reusing to the fullest. Thanks for sharing. Visiting from 4 Seasons Blog Hop.

    Reply
  20. Kristina (The Greening Of Westford)

    I love the sock as a cleaning rag idea! I never thought of that. I took an old bath towel that was starting to fray and rip and cut that up. Works great! I haven’t’ bought microwave popcorn in years. I pop my popcorn in a paper bag (always one that I have saved form something else) in the microwave. We also use resuable “snack” bags instead of the traditional zip top plastic baggies for snacks. Some I purchased, some my mom made out of scrap fabric and some velcro.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Thanks Kristina, that strong scrubbing terrycloth has been very helpful in reducing what we must buy to clean. I guess sometimes you’ve just got to think outside the box a little. LOL ~TMR~

      Reply
  21. CTY

    I like the way you term the migration of duty– the ” rags have migrated down the line in their duty responsibilities” I do that too. My best example of migration is listed below.
    I do a lot of crossword puzzles and also sudoku (although I prefer crosswords). The filled books I leave hanging around for when my granddaughter (under 2 yrs. old) visits. She likes to scribble in them. When she finishes with them I tear them into shreds and toss them into the compost bin. I only buy the books that are like newsprint. The covers are used for making stencils for craft projects or for little sloppy projects as place mats.

    Reply
  22. Carol

    I do give my chickens kitchen scraps. I don’t consider it wasting as they turn it into beautiful eggs for us.
    I did however find not using paper towels a habit hard to break. I took some worn towels and cut them up to rag size. I did sew a seam at the cut part. I have not been reusing my bags as much as I should be. I am going to try harder. Thanks for the tips! Keep them coming ! I am always looking for more ways to reuse.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Oh yeah Carol, our chickens & goats get some of the kitchen scraps as well for just the reason you mentioned, plus it reduces our purchased feed cost. So like you, I consider it a green use of an otherwise wasted resource. Thanks for your comments! ~TMR~

      Reply
  23. Diane Barnard

    Using smaller, repurposed plastic bags for small servings and then placing them all into a large freezer bag is sheer genius:)
    How do you wash the plastic peanut butter jars? I’ve not been able to, easily, get them clean enough where they don’t look greasy.

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Diane, I have an amazing rubber spatula that gets out a surprising amount of peanut butter from an “empty” jar & I scrape it until it’s VERY empty. Then I pull the label off (It’s only glued on the seam) and put it in the dishwasher. Since there’s precious little product left in the jar the dishwasher gets it squeaky clean for me. ~TMR~

      Reply
    2. ladyhawthorne

      I find soaking the peanut butter jar overnight with dishsoap & hot water will loosen up and residue and it washes out fine either in the dishwasher or by hand if I use an extra squirt of soap.

      Reply
  24. Karen

    This happens to be one of my favorite topics. Don’t feel silly about nabbing the stray paper napkin… I do it too! 🙂 I made the commitment several years ago to never buy any more garbage bags. Since I collect bags of leaves in the fall, I recycle the useable ones for our trash and always have plenty. I also use fabric bags for grocery shopping. Guess I have your same plastic phobia. And one of the many other things I do is reuse the dish washing water in my dish pan for mopping and/or flushing the commode.
    Great post!! Looking forward to hearing more.

    Reply
  25. Marlene

    From the looks of your pantry it seems you dehydrate a wider variety than what I’ve been doing. I’d love to know some of the things you have dehydrated. blessings, marlene

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Well let’s see Marlene – I’ve got dehydrated cubed carrots, potatoes both cubed & shredded, green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, onions both purple & white, kale, tomato slices, tomato powder, veggie bullion powder, purslane, celery both ribs & leaves, jujubes diced & shredded and apples in slices, diced and shredded. I’m really loving the dehydrating thing and next year I’ll focus on dehydrating much of my garden excess. ~TMR~

      Reply
  26. Melissa Mazzanti

    I have a question… I’ve tried to reuse old jars but I can’t get lingering smells and tastes out of some of them i.e. Pickle and salsa. Even when I use bleach, once I put the clean lid on my jars get that smell and taste back. What do you do to eliminate that problem? Also, how do you get the labeles off without leaving a resadue?

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      Melissa, a stint in my dishwasher and a thorough air drying usually takes care of any residual food aromas in my repurposed jars – even pickles. Here’s my trick for the labels – get a very wet rag saturated with very hot water (I put it in the microwave for a few seconds) Then lay it across the label and put a tea towel over it and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. This softens the glue holding the label on & usually I can use a tab from a loaf of bread to scrape away label and almost all of the glue. A quick soap & water scrubbing usually removes the rest of the glue residue but if not I spritz some WD40 on it & that almost always does the trick. Then I just put the jar in the dishwasher & it comes out squeaky clean. ~TMR~

      Reply
      1. CTY

        If a jar has a lingering smell I was it best I can & let it dry completely and then crumple up as much newspaper as will fit in the jar and put the lid on. I then put the jar on the shelf & forget about it for a while. This usually works. It works for plastic too. If for some reason it still smells, grab a brick of charcoal & try again.

        Reply
    2. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

      Make sure you are letting the lids dry thoroughly. However, some of them will retain an odor–it soaks into the soft stuff on the inside of the lid that makes the seal. My solution to this problem is to use salsa and pickle jars for my spicy leftovers, for storing half a raw onion, or for foods like dry beans or rice where the smell won’t be a problem. The jars from peanut butter and other mild foods are for storing milder foods.

      Goo Gone is a great solvent for removing stubborn labels.

      Reply
  27. Candy C.

    These are all great ideas! I particularly like the socks into cleaning rags into shop rags. My hubby is TERRIBLE about using paper towels! The only time he will use the hand towel under the sink is when I’m standing right there watching him! LOL!! Buying in bulk is another great way to reduce trash., so is cooking from scratch. We hardly ever have cans or jars in the trash. 🙂

    Reply
  28. MBP

    I have a unique way to help keep from wasting food. I live alone and like to cook, so I end up having to eat the same meal multiple times (sometimes freezing it in meal-size portions). My adult son is on a very tight budget and also cooks just for himself, so once or twice a week I donate my leftovers to him (I still usually eat at least one portion of the leftovers myself). That doesn’t particularly save me any money, but I don’t have to eat the same meal after it has lost its appeal or feel guilty about waste (and my son really appreciates it). Maybe others have a friend, relative or elderly neighbor that would appreciate prepared food occasionally.

    Reply
    1. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

      Yes! My friend just had a “soup swap” party where everyone made a big pot of soup and brought quart containers to trade. Unfortunately I missed it because I was sick; I would have loved to try all those new soups while sharing one of my favorites.

      Reply

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