Is Paper Compostable? Let’s Look At Different Types Of Paper!

Written By Jenn

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I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I can put any form of paper into the general rubbish or trash these days.

Is paper compostable? Once upon a time, “in the olden days,” it wasn’t so much of a thing. Admittedly, I have composted or recycled paper for years now, but often those little bits of paper, like receipts or notes, shopping lists etc, just make their way into the normal rubbish.

Not anymore. I feel the guilt.

On the odd occasion when I have been super tired or lazy, my efforts may have been less than stellar and I may have put paper in the trash. I almost expect an alarm or siren to go off telling me of my bad deeds. Overall, I am pretty good at composting paper these days.

Big Brother Composter is watching!

What about glossy mags you say? Well, strangely (or not), I just don’t buy them anymore. I used to love a good sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and a mag but these days I tend to pick up my phone. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but just a sign of the times.

Getting back to composting paper.

It all in the mindset. Just get into the habit of doing it and before you know it, you will feel an attack of the guilts if any little pieces of paper escape into the trash.

how to add paper to the compost

Composting Different Types of Paper

One of the biggest considerations when composting paper is deciding what kind of paper you can compost and which ones you need to send off to be recycled.

The Ink Used In printing

The biggest question about the different papers is about the inks that are used to for printing. For many years, all inks contained a variety of metals and chemicals that are known to be less than healthy.

While modern inks are somewhat healthier than this, there are still some papers that you should not use in your home compost. This includes all the shiny circulars and advertisements and glossy brochures. Send them off to be recycled instead.

For centuries the inks used for printing on a large scale used petroleum based binders and pigments that were often made using heavy metals such as lead.

Today much of the industry is switching over to inks that are soy and vegetable based, but even these may still have petroleum bases.

Heavy metals such as copper and zinc are still used in pigments in much smaller amounts these days and have been deemed safe for use in garden compost. This is an interesting article about ink that is made from algae. Not just the way of the future anymore. This product is used widely today.

Benefits of Adding Paper to Your Compost

Despite the concerns over the inks used to print on paper, there are still certain benefits to adding shredded newspaper, paper towels, thin cardboard, and many other forms of paper products to your compost pile.

One benefit that composting paper adds, is that it will absorb much of the free water in your compost which will help to keep the formation of  mold from occurring and causing unpleasant odors.

If you are adding grass clippings and plenty of other greens that are high in nitrogen to the mix, adding shredded paper will add a good source of carbon, which is vital to the composting process.

Since paper is a plant-based product, adding it to your compost will be returning it to the soil and, in turn, adding vital nutrients to what can be seriously depleted soil.

Is Paper Compostable? How To Compost Shredded Paper

composting paper
This is shredded paper

Composting paper is a relatively easy task. However, you can’t simply throw big wads of paper into your compost pile and expect it to decompose properly.

In order for the paper to compost properly it needs to be shredded.

Buy A Paper Shredder

You can buy a cheap paper shredder like you would buy in the local office supply store to shred your personal documents. These handy little machines work perfectly for this.

The machine below is a basic paper shredder very similar to the one we use. There are more heavy-duty models if you need to shred in bulk.

Amazon Basics Cross Cut Paper Shredder and Credit Card Shredder with 4.1 Gallon Bin, 8 Sheet Capacity

I have a sturdy cotton bag that I add any paper to that I intend to shred. When the bag gets full, it is time to get shredding. Any container would do.

Once you get shredding, you will need something to put the shredded paper into. The paper shredder has its own container for the paper, but I find that it fills fairly quickly.

I don’t tend to trot off to the compost pile when the shredder container is full. What I do is tip the shredded paper into a larger bucket or two and finish shredding. This is a worthwhile thing to do but I do want to get it done as quickly as possible.

When adding the paper to the compost pile, just eyeball the compost.

If your compost is quite wet, you can judge how much you can add that will break down quickly. There is no exact science to the layering process, and it is really just experience that improves the results.

It’s a bit like cooking; it just takes practice.

shredded paper in a compost pile
This is an open compost pile, so the shredded paper can be clearly seen. We used an enclosed black compost bin.

If you think you have too much shredded paper for the compost pile, just leave it for now and add it to the compost as needed. It’s always useful to have some shredded paper ready to go.

Let The Kids Tear The Paper

The alternative, if you have younger children at home, is to let them go to town shredding the paper for you. Not only does all of your paper get torn into tiny shreds, but this will keep your kids happy for hours. The kids will think you are crazy.

Add the paper to your compost pile in layers. So, for example, some leaves and weeds, then some shredded paper. Maybe some lawn clippings and food waste.

The compost may now be looking wet, so add some more shredded paper at this stage to absorb some of the moisture.

Within a few months, you will have wonderfully rich compost that you can use anywhere in your garden.

When creating a compost pile, we all know that we can add in all the organic materials we can lay our hands on, including the waste food and scraps from the kitchen. Is paper compostable? Yes, definitely.

Paper can become a very important part of your compost pile and a strategy to actively use.

 an earthworm
We love making compost! Can we come to your house?

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