Can You Compost Newspaper and Other Inked Paper Products

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Can you compost newspaper? Well, suppose you are surrounded by stacks of newspapers and other paper products in your home, wondering how to repurpose them effectively. In that case, I have a practical, sustainable solution to help you transform them into a valuable resource for your garden. Composting your newspapers and other paper products can help make your garden flourish and plants healthier, all while reducing household waste!

Newspapers, like other papers, are carbon-rich materials. Make sure you shred your newspaper for faster decomposition and ensure your newspaper ink is safe for composting (e.g., soy or vegetable-based). Avoid colorful or shiny pages with potentially harmful chemicals like heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

closeup of large stack of black and white newspapers

In this informative article, I’ll provide several ways to incorporate your newspapers into your compost heap, going beyond the usual method of simply adding them. I will also list newspapers you should avoid in your home compost since not all papers are treated equally.

Because you want to set your pile for success when first starting it, we’ll also cover tips on which brown and green materials go best with your newspaper and how to add them to your backyard heap effectively. Prepare to make a good compost from your newspapers and discover the most eco-friendly way to dispose of them for good.

Humble Highlights

  • Save time and avoid setbacks by choosing the right paper to add to your pile so you can keep your compost decomposing correctly and feed your garden plants with this adequate and free nutrient source!
  • This easy 5-step paper composting process saves time in creating a high-performing pile while generating nutrient-dense compost throughout the year.
  • Discover these 5 common challenges growers make when placing paper in their compost so you can avoid these pitfalls and keep your pile going strong – no matter what region you reside in! 

Benefits Of Using Newspaper As A Compostable Material

Newspapers contribute to composting by being a suitable carbon source in your compost heap. These informative editorials are classified as brown compost material. Mixing in newspaper improves compost structure, reduces waste, and is cost-effective.

can you compost colored newspaper

Paper takes time to break down, ranging from a few weeks to several months, but it always depends on the size you add to your composter. Ideally, you should only add small-medium-sized bits to ensure it decomposes well, as an overabundance can lead to a stagnant pile that doesn’t deteriorate and remains dry. 1

Because newspapers and other paper products are readily available and often accumulate as household waste, composting them creates a convenient way to recycle paper and keep your home clean while enriching your soil and feeding your plants.

Can You Decompose Newspapers (Factors To Consider)

Choose Newspapers with Biodegradable Newspaper Inks

A newspaper is made from a type of paper called newsprint. Each publisher may have different printing methods that can influence the characteristics of the print material. Therefore, it’s better to use regular newspapers because they are produced with soy ink or vegetable-based inks on uncoated and recycled papers that are ideal for composting. 2

Natural-based inks are beneficial to the environment because they will prevent soil contamination. They are derived from renewable resources, helping us reduce our carbon footprint. They are also more biodegradable and have lower volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than petroleum-based ones that contribute to air pollution. Generally, they are more environmentally friendly.

how to shred newspaper for compost

Stick To Recycling Uncoated Pages

The best way to compost newspaper clippings is to use those that have uncoated (duller in appearance) pages. Shiny brochures, postcards, calendars, art prints, advertising flyers, photo papers, and coffee table books are frequently made of glossy documents and should be avoided in your compost. 3

Here are four vital reasons as to why you should not add shiny-coated papers:

  • Shiny paper coatings hinder compost breakdown and may introduce harmful substances.
  • Coated paper restricts microbial access, slowing decomposition.
  • Shiny paper inks can contain harmful chemicals.
  • Shiny paper disrupts the compost balance due to its slow decomposition and high carbon content.
Humble Tip:
Construction paper should also be shunned in your compost and not incorporated with other organic materials. Like the glossy options above, construction paper may contain harmful dyes and heavy metals you’ll want to avoid.  

Other Paper Made Products You Can Use 

Good options to compost include cardboard from delivered packages, paper grocery bags, paper towels and napkins, tea bags, and other natural paper scraps are acceptable to compost. Including these paper-based items in your heap not only diverts more waste from landfills but also adds valuable organic carbon to your compost, enriching the nutrient content and enhancing your finished compost’s quality. 4

Remember to balance these paper materials with appropriate green (nitrogen-rich) materials to maintain a healthy composting environment. The proper balance is a 3:1 carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

In other words, for every bucket full of greens (nitrogen), you’ll want to add three buckets of browns (carbon). If there is any imbalance, you’ll find your compost becoming smelly, stagnant, or dry, so be sure to address these issues quickly if they arise.

Can paper be turned into fertile, nutrient-dense plant food for your garden? Check out this informative video below that explains this process. Remember, composting responsibly isn’t just about providing for your green friends in the garden. It’s also about decreasing household waste, becoming self-sufficient, and becoming an environmental advocate for our beautiful world.

The Compost Process: Putting Newspapers In The Compost

Step 1: Shred The Paper

Instead of tossing whole papers into your compost mix, tear down your newspaper into small pieces using shredders, chippers, scissors, or good old tearing. In fact, a good rule of thumb is that no matter what you add to your compost, you should break it down into manageable pieces for faster decomposition. 5

can you use newspaper in compost

Step 2: Layer It With Other Organic Materials In The Compost Bin

You can add the newspaper bedding first, then other organic materials like food scraps and untreated and chemical-free grass clippings, to create a nutrient-rich compost pile until the bin is full.

An optional step that can be very beneficial is the addition of a compost activator. Activators introduce beneficial microorganisms and accelerate decomposition, such as compost starters (containing bacteria and fungi) available in gardening stores and online.

Many gardeners commonly apply Espoma Organic Bio-Tone Starter Plus, a premium blend of natural and organic elements with beneficial microorganisms, humates, and mycorrhizae fungi.

You can also use readily available organic activators like limestone (lime), dried blood (blood meal), fish meal, or various animal manures, including poultry, rabbit, and horse, as well as rabbit food pellets and dry dog food.

Step 3: Maintaining Compost Paper Moisture Levels 

Maintaining the proper level of moisture is crucial for microbial activity. Your pile should remain damp for effective microbe decomposition. To check, squeeze a handful of compost in a clenched fist and then release. If a few drops of water are present and it retains its shape, it’s likely at the proper moisture level. 6

can you put newspaper in the compost

Step 4: Practice Regular Turning 

Turning the compost paper promotes aeration and aerobic conditions favorable to microorganisms. It also prevents compaction and regulates temperature in the compost pile or bin. Turning it every 1-2 weeks may be ideal, but you may need to turn it more frequently if it becomes too wet or dry to provide the appropriate environment for decomposition.

However, if the pile crumbles in your hand or is overly soggy, you’ll want to amend your heap’s environment by adding more water or restricting it respectively. A compost pile that is too wet or dry won’t break down materials as intended.

Step 5: Allow It To Mature, Use It As A Mulch

Allow the compost to have sufficient time to complete the breakdown process. It may take several weeks or months, depending on factors like size, temperature, and turning, so it is essential to inspect the maturity of the compost visually regularly.

Typically, mature compost develops an earthy scent and crumbly texture while losing its original appearance – meaning you won’t be able to identify any original ingredients. Scoop it from the bin into a separate container when it’s ready. Keep your mature compost, also called humus, in a cool, place until you’re ready to use it.

Humble Tip:
If your newspapers need to be better-shredded, turn the pile more to encourage faster decomposition. Depending on your region’s climate and temperature (i.e., non-stop rain or extreme heat), address your pile and amend any issues to prevent your mound from becoming stagnant. 

While all these steps are crucial for the success of your compost, persistent work and patience are necessary for them to yield the desired results. Keep an eye (and nose) out for signs of maturity, like that earthy scent and crumbly texture mentioned above, and you’ll have a valuable resource to enhance your garden throughout the season. 

Tips For Composting Shredded Newspapers

  1. Make sure your newspapers are broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces when adding to your compost pile to expedite the breakdown of organic matter.
  2. Pair your paper (carbon) with green (nitrogen) composting materials like kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, or chemical-free grass clippings to maintain a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.
  3. Ensure you alternate layers of browns and greens to achieve equal amounts of organic matter in your compost, which helps with aeration and decomposition. 7
  4. Avoid tossing glossy or shiny pages into your compost, and instead, stick to black-and-white newsprint. Colored copies may contain harmful chemicals such as dyes, coatings, and metals (varnishes or lacquers).
  5. When choosing an ideal compost location, select an area that is both shaded and relatively dry and near a water source, like a spigot. This way, you can control the moisture level in your pile by keeping it moist but not soggy.
can you put newspaper in compost

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Adding Paper To Your Compost Pile

Although paper composting is a simple method, there is still a chance that you might make common mistakes when adding them to your compost, especially if you’re just beginning. Below is a list of common errors to avoid to ensure the compostability of your shredded papers.

  1. Not removing adhesive labels and tape.
  2. Not properly shredding the paper or adding too much paper at once.
  3. Incorporating plastic-coated, glossy, colored, or laminated paper. 8
  4. Adding an overabundance of carbon (browns) or nitrogen (greens) causing an imbalance. Tell-tale signs of this common challenge include strong odors, curious rodents and pests, slower than normal decomposition, and inconsistent internal heat within the pile.
  5. Compacting the pile (restricts the airflow and moisture), subsequently allowing it to dry out.
can you put colored newspaper in compost

Humble Tip:
Consider turning your compost pile regularly to aerate it and promote an even or balanced decomposition. This simple step can significantly improve the quality of your compost.

Remember, in the world of composting, patience is your best friend. It’s tempting to rush the process, but taking your time and allowing nature to work its magic will lead to better compost in the end.

Conclusion

As gardeners, we always want to practice sustainability, and one way to do this is through composting. While composting newspapers is straightforward, avoiding common mistakes, such as not removing adhesive labels, using too much paper at once, adding plastic-coated or laminated paper, and creating an imbalance between green and brown materials, is essential.

Incorporating shredded newspapers into your compost heap or pile reduces household waste and benefits the environment by reducing waste in landfills. Remember to gather and tear them into smaller pieces before tossing them into your eco-friendly composting haven.

Do you currently compost paper? We’d love to know how long you’ve been doing it and how much you’ve noticed a significant reduction in household waste. Drop us a line below in the comments and spill the beans on why you think this easy method of composting paper has helped feed your backyard garden plants.

SOURCES

  1. Springer Link – Composting Process
  2. United States Environmental Protection Agency – Composting At Home
  3. Natural Resources Defense Council – Composting 101
  4. Cornell Waste Management Institute – Composting: Balancing Your Greens And Browns
  5. University Of Michigan, School Of Public Health – Trash To Treasure: The Incredible Benefits Of Composting
  6. National Library Of Medicine, National Center For Biotechnology Information – Evaluation Of Optimum Moisture Content For Composting Of Beef Manure And Bedding Material Mixtures Using Oxygen Uptake Measurement
  7. Colorado Master Gardener – Making Compost
  8. West Virginia University, Extension – How Compost Works

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