- Can you still use the newspaper in the garden? | Charlotte Observer
- Subscribe to My Newsletter
- Composting Paper – Is it Safe?
- Try composting instead?
- Composting Cardboard: Information On Types Of Cardboard To Compost Safely
- Can I Compost Cardboard?
- Types of Cardboard to Compost
- How to Compost Cardboard Boxes
- Shredding Newspaper For Vermicomposting
- Shredding Newspaper For Mulch
- Using Newspaper As A Weed Barrier
- Related Questions
Can you still use the newspaper in the garden? | Charlotte Observer
Thanks to its new printing press in University City, The Charlotte Observer has gotten a lot more colorful lately. The changes have some gardeners worried. Do the Observer’s vivid inks mean it is no longer safe to use in the garden?
The quick answer: There is nothing to worry about. The Observer still uses harmless inks and no toxic heavy metals. The newsprint itself is made using a simple mechanical process without harsh chemicals.
Though it is a long way from the forest to the front page, newsprint is basically ground-up tree trunks. The garden is an ideal place return this natural organic matter to the soil.
From organic gardening authority Steve Solomon to the Huber Corp., a German firm that produces printing inks, there’s agreement that newspapers are safe to use in the garden and in the compost heap.
Local News at Your Fingertips
Get unlimited digital access for just $3.99 a month to #ReadLocal anytime, on any device.
Gardening writer Beth Botts took a careful look at the issues involved in using newspapers in the garden.
“Any newsprint, whether printed in black and white or color, is safe to use as mulch on a bed or as an ingredient in compost, even for vegetables,” Botts says. “It won’t harm plants, earthworms, bugs or people.”
Newspaper inks often contain mineral oils derived from petroleum, though some are made, all or in part, using vegetable-based oils such as soybean or linseed oil (an EPA research report defined “soy-based ink” as containing 20 percent or more soy oil). The consensus is that modern newspaper ink – mineral oil- or vegetable oil-based – poses minimal risk to gardeners and gardens.
Newsprint itself contains no significant residues or toxins, and even slick advertising sections are safe to use, according to Botts.
Solomon, author of “Gardening When It Counts,” notes that although newspaper is rich in carbon, it is very low in nitrogen. He cautions against using it alone as the major ingredient in compost piles.
Newspaper’s main practical value to gardeners is as a sheet mulch to control weeds. I stick to the basics, laying several sheets flat on the ground and covering with 3 inches to 6 inches of wood chips.
Permaculture guru Toby Hemenway has a more complex recipe for “ultimate bomb-proof sheet mulch” at www.patternliteracy.com, a concoction resembling a Martha Stewart-inspired manure parfait.
The Observer makes ideal bedding for my worm bin. It is easy to work with, readily available, and my worms love it. Botts reports that Wisconsin dairy farmers use shredded newspaper as bedding, too.
I tear the paper into strips and add about 6 inches periodically to the worm bin, as needed. There is an added benefit: If I read a column I particularly take issue with, I don’t fume. I just feed it to the worms.
Botts also suggests making small biodegradable pots for transplants from old newspaper. This works well, if you have the patience for it, and certainly is more environmentally friendly than throw-away plastic pots.
Bottom line: Using newspapers in the garden is a good way to turn potential waste into a useful resource.
Newspaper is safe to use in your garden. In a no-dig garden, I put the paper layer over the compost/manure/scraps/leaves layer – just before adding the mulch on top – not on the ground as the first layer.
Over the past couple of decades I have started so many gardens using the very simple and affordable no-dig gardening method I shared yesterday. I have become a passionate advocate of this way of gardening having seen how effective it is in many different contexts – in improving the soil, supporting healthy and diverse gardens with annuals and perennials, and dramatically reducing weeds and watering. I explained in this previous post why I put the paper on top of the compost layer, not on the ground first. This is a really useful twist in the usual description of no-dig. I encourage you to read my post and give it a go.
I have made this type of garden and then headed off on a 7 week journey. When I came back, the garden was brimming with veggies, herbs and flowers. There were almost no weeds coming through and the soil felt moist and open underneath the newspaper and mulch layer.
Ever since trying to start gardens at the Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane, where even a mattock would bounce off the soil, I have been experimenting with different ways of doing no-dig. I have settled for some time now on the method I described yesterday and I really like it because it helps to rapidly build soil and activate soil life, and the plants thrive immediately.
This no-dig garden method is easy to do and doesn’t require buying in a lot of resources. I think good food is a basic human right for all and great chemical-free food does not need to be expensive to grow.
The question that pops up every time I make a no-dig garden with a group, share the idea or write about it is … “But what about the newspaper? Isn’t it bad to add into the garden?”
I am happy to use it in my gardens and to recommend it to others. My response to the concerns has a number of dimensions:
- USE SMALL AMOUNT FOR GREAT BENEFIT: If you do this newspapering well, you only need to redo it once a year or perhaps longer. As long as the mulch layer above the newspaper is thick enough, the paper lasts quite some time and is therefore only a small amount. Getting my hands on enough paper is my problem, so this also makes me am conservative in my use.
- PAPER DOES NOT REPEL WATER IF LAID WELL: By taking care with the way you lay the paper, you can use it to help harvest water. If there is a slight slope on the garden, lay the paper the opposite of how you would lay roof tiles, and the water will be directed under the paper. Also when poking a hole through the paper, the depression made helps to direct water that falls on the garden to where the seedlings are.
- PAPER KEEPS SOIL TEMPERATURE AND MOISTURE MORE STABLE: Under the paper, the soil and new materials do not fluctuate so much in temperature and moisture during the day. In the hot summers, this is particularly important and the plants seem to revive quickly.
- INKS ARE DIFFERENT NOW: There is a lot of confusion around whether the inks are toxic. We were informed a permaculture course participant who worked in the industry that there have been no heavy metals been used for a long time in newspapers. Soy based inks are used for both black and colour ink. Warnings about toxic heavy metals in ink, especially colour ink, come from decades ago when lead type was used in printing. Since then, the newspaper printing technology has completely changed, the EPA has imposed regulations on waste and all newspaper ink manufacturers have altered their formulas to exclude heavy metals. There will of course be some residue, but it is such a tiny amount that it barely rates.
- No heavy metals are added to the black and colour inks used for printing, which also meets the Australian Standard (AS1647.3) for coatings on children’s toys.
- All pulp used in newspapers is elemental chlorine free
I have heard that according to the organic certification bodies, using newspaper is fine for home gardens.
Subscribe to My Newsletter
Composting Paper – Is it Safe?
I have a question about composting paper…You talk about using your shredded bills and cardboard in your compost pile. Do these processed papers contain harmful chemicals in them? Are they safe for use on your veggie garden when composted??
Thanks in advance for replies, Debbie.
Shredded Paper in the Compost
I’m a big fan of using shredded paper in the compost. I think it’s a great high carbon compost material and most city and town dwellers have lots of it handy. But, Debbie asks a common question – are these papers and the inks they are printed with safe?
Is the Paper and Cardboard Safe?
Paper is usually made from pulp of various plants such as trees, rice, cotton, or hemp. The pulp is treated with various chemicals in the paper making process but once made they are pretty benign.
A lot of compost advice suggests avoiding glossy papers and colored inks. When I had my seed company I did a lot of printing. Our outside packaging was printed on a clay coated card stock. What made it glossy was the clay coat which is exactly that – paper coated with clay. When printed the coated paper tends to make the color more vibrant and glossy. Putting a skiff of clay into your compost is just fine – it is after all part of the soil.
But What About the Inks – Are They Toxic?
Some of the pigments used for printing inks used to be toxic. Non toxic substitutes have been in use for the last two decades or more. This is as much for workers health as it is for the environment.
Most of the inks are also now vegetable oil based. Usually it is soy oil. This was first used in the 70’s when the first big oil crisis loomed. At that time the inks were in petroleum based solvents.
Those first soy based inks weren’t a huge success and as oil became more available again the printing industry stepped back into doing the petro based solvents again. However, in the last decade or more the soy ink has become the standard and has proved to give very good quality printing.
Composting Paper – The Bottom Line
Given that many of us who live in towns and cities don’t have an easy source of carbon rich straw for example composting paper makes sense. In fact the Sierra Club’s Mr. Green says that one study showed that paper was actually less toxic than straw or grass clippings.
The microorganisms in the compost community are able to break down even petrochemicals. In fact the EPA has been doing tests for years and finding that composting soils contaminated with petrochemicals is a very effective way to rehabilitate some of the brown sites we have to reclaim.
Ironically Composting Paper is Safe But Do Be Careful with Grass and Straw…
Paper is safe but do be careful with grass and straw. Some fields and lawns have been treated with very persistent herbicides that don’t break down in the compost process. You’ll find more info on persistent herbicides here.
Composting paper, in my opinion and supported by the current facts about paper and printing, is safe.
Best Regards – Leslie
Share this idea!
It’s a testament to our increased awareness of waste management and environmental issues that we now often have several options at hand when it comes to getting rid of things that have outlived their purpose — reuse, recycling, composting, repurposing and upcycling all come to mind. Batteries, bottles, orange peels — all can find their way into a recycling bin or a compost pile and, happily, avoid the landfill altogether. This is a welcome advancement, especially as waste levels continue to increase and garbage pollution becomes an increasingly worrisome issue.
So excluding refusal to consume from the mix altogether are there instances when composting trumps, say, recycling? Let’s take a look.
All that paper
At the end of the day, both recycling and composting have a cost, an impact, and a trade-off. Image Credit: wissanustock /
Paper products in particular routinely make up a sizable chunk of total waste material.
According to the EPA, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash in 2013. The agency goes on to say that the United States ‘recovered about 67 percent (5.7 million tons) of newspaper/mechanical in 2013.’
That’s absolutely staggering especially when you consider that there are not one but two better options for used paper than languishing in a dump somewhere.
Yes, when it comes to disposing of paper or cardboard, you can both recycle or compost. Either one would be preferable to contributing to that 16% of landfill waste, but how do you choose? Which is best for the environment, both in terms of resources used and overall benefit?
When you choose to recycle a piece of paper, you reintroduce it into the production stream and eliminate the need to cut down more virgin trees to produce paper. Paper products are incredibly wasteful and despite technology’s early promise of a paperless world, the world we live in is anything but. Our paper consumption continues to grow, with North America consuming the most paper in the world, year after year. It’s a resource-intensive endeavor, turning trees into crisp sheets of stark white paper. Each piece of standard letter-sized paper requires 10 liters of water to produce, not to mention the millions of acres of land deforested for this purpose.
Recycling helps mitigate these effects, according to the website; The World Counts, “Recycling 1 ton of paper saves around 682.5 gallons of oil, 26,500 liters of water and 17 trees”.
We can conserve a staggering amount of resources simply by taking paper out of the trash and putting it into the recycling bin, instead.
Paper, pulp, process, paper
When it’s recycled, paper is broken down into a pulp and processed into new paper. It comes out ahead when compared to creating paper from trees, but it’s not a zero waste endeavor by any means, and some question whether recycling paper is really worth the effort.
An article by Slate examining the issue reminds us that recycling, particularly paper recycling, is not all sunshine and rainbows.
“…The recycling process creates an inky sludge that presents a disposal challenge. Many common inks contain metals such as chromium, zinc, and lead, which can seep into water supplies.”
Of course, manufacturing paper from virgin trees has its risks, too, and even when taking into account these environmental roadblocks, most of those who have made in-depth examinations of the issue conclude that recycling does indeed result in a net benefit to the environment.
Try composting instead?
What if we skipped recycling altogether and simply started composting our paper waste instead? Image Credit: Graham Corney /
So, although recycling saves resources compared to producing virgin paper, it also takes resources of its own. What if we skipped recycling altogether and simply started composting our paper waste instead?
A good compost pile relies on a balanced mix of both green and brown waste. Nitrogen-rich green waste is made up of things like fruit peels and vegetable trimmings, while carbon-rich brown waste is comprised of things like leaves. Paper products- and particularly unbleached cardboard – counts in the brown waste column and can be a welcome addition to your compost bin, preventing it from getting moldy, stinky, or slimy.
By composting your paper instead of recycling it, you could completely eliminate the resources needed to break it down and manufacture it back into fresh paper. No recycling bins, no trucks to carry it to the recycling plant, no machinery or sludge or chemical processing agents. Just paper breaking down into its component parts and then fertilizing your garden next year, helping your tomatoes grow.
It seems simple enough, but the process we skirt by avoiding the recycling bin also contribute to one of the reasons that composting might not win here. By composting paper, we remove from the recycling stream. In doing so it’s true that we conserve recycling resources but we also now increase the need to deplete forests to make up the difference and create new paper. Our voracious need for paper products means that raw material has to come from somewhere, and reducing the amount of paper being recycled may simply mean an increased demand for new deforestation.
When looked at through this lens of supply and demand, recycling paper is almost always better than composting. Yes, it takes resources, but far fewer than it does to produce new. And removing paper from the production stream in a large scale way by composting it instead of recycling it may end up doing more harm than good.
Exceptions to the rule
The one exception to this is if the paper is soiled in any way — think a child’s art project or a grease-stained pizza box — in these cases the paper is unfit for recycling and including it may taint an entire batch of recycling and render it useless for processing. Tear the pizza box into shreds and add it to your compost pile, and remember that when it comes to those pint-sized masterpieces, white glue, dried pasta and masking tape are all suitable for composting. (Not that you’d ever be getting rid of those lovely gifts, though, right?)
At the end of the day, both recycling and composting have a cost, an impact, and a trade-off.
- The only solution which reliably comes out ahead with a clean slate in this regard is simply reducing the amount of paper you use in the first place.
- Remember to print only when necessary and print double-sided whenever possible.
- Always buy 100% post-consumer recycled paper products whenever you can — I mean what’s the good of all that recycling if no one wants to buy the finished product?
68 million trees are chopped down to make paper each and every year in the United States. Please think about your own paper use and how to reduce it first, before recycling (or composting, for that matter).
Feature image credit: KaliAntye /
Composting Cardboard: Information On Types Of Cardboard To Compost Safely
Using cardboard in compost is a rewarding experience that makes great use of boxes taking up space. There are different types of cardboard to compost, so knowing what you are working with beforehand is important when learning how to compost cardboard boxes.
Can I Compost Cardboard?
Yes, you can compost cardboard. In fact, cardboard waste makes up over 31 percent of landfills, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Composting cardboard is a practice that is becoming more popular now that people are beginning to realize the benefits of composting. Composting cardboard is perfect if you have just moved or if you are cleaning up the attic.
Types of Cardboard to Compost
Composting cardboard, especially large boxes or individual sheets of cardboard, is not difficult as long as you set up and maintain your compost pile correctly. There are generally two to three types of cardboard to compost. These include:
- Corrugated cardboard – This is the type usually used for packing. Any type of corrugated cardboard can be used in compost as long as it is broken into small pieces.
- Flat cardboard – This type of cardboard is most often found as cereal boxes, drink boxes, shoe boxes and other similar flat-surfaced cardboards.
- Wax-coated cardboard – These types include cardboard that has been laminated with another material, such as wax (coated paper cups) or non-degradable foil lining (pet food bags). These types are more difficult to compost.
Regardless of the type used, shredded cardboard works best when using cardboard in compost. But, if you cannot shred it, just rip it or cut it up as small as you can. It is also a good idea to remove any tape or stickers that will not break down easily.
How to Compost Cardboard Boxes
It is critical that all cardboard to be composted is broken into small pieces. Large pieces will not decompose as quickly. Also, soaking the cardboard in water with a bit of liquid detergent will help to speed up the decomposition process.
- Begin your compost pile with a 4-inch layer of shredded corrugated cardboard with other high-carbon materials such as straw, old hay or dead leaves.
- Add a 4-inch layer of nitrogen rich materials on top of the cardboard such as fresh grass clippings, horse or cow manure, spoiled vegetables or fruit peels.
- Add a 2-inch layer of soil on top of this layer.
- Continue to layer in this fashion until the pile is approximately 4 cubic feet. It is imperative that the compost pile be kept about as moist as a sponge. Add more water or cardboard depending on how wet it feels. The cardboard will soak up any excess water.
- Turn the compost pile every five days with a pitchfork to speed up decomposition. In six to eight months, the compost will be ready to use in the garden.
As you can see, learning how to compost cardboard is easy. In addition to being a great soil conditioner for plants in the garden, you’ll find that using cardboard in compost will help keep unwanted trash from piling up.
Hey Mr. Green,
I shred credit-card statements and other papers containing personal financial information. I usually have a disproportionate amount of green material for my compost, so I’d love to add this shredded paper to the pile. Is such paper safe for composting? What about shredded newsprint?
–Marianne in New York, New York
Except for colored and glossy paper, which might contain some toxic heavy metals, newsprint and other paper is safe to use as mulch or in compost. In fact, one study revealed that paper had less toxic material than straw or grass!
The only problem with paper is that if you put too much of it in your heap, you could get an unfavorable carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, since paper is high in carbon (one reason it burns). But unless your finances are of a Bernie Madoffian level of complexity, your financial documents will probably not disturb the ratio! The ideal ratio is 25 carbon to 1 nitrogen. Too much carbon slows down the process. If that happens, you can always add high-nitrogen material such as grass, alfalfa, or manure. As you no doubt have already discovered, well-chopped material and frequent turning is the key to healthy, happy compost.
To chop up stuff like stems and long grass, I place a cross-sectional slab of a log on an upturned milk crate and mince the material with a machete. Better exercise than cramming it into a chipper, and there’s a primal thrill in wielding a machete. Now if you’re an inaccurate machete-wielder, I recommend thick gloves to keep from severely injuring the hand that feeds the material onto the slab. If you’re a hopelessly inaccurate machete-wielder, you can make a wooden rectangle and attach a side of it to the slab so that you have to feed the stems, etc. through it. This will keep the feeding hand far enough away from the machete to insure safety. (Having grown up in a rural area where more than a few farmers lost fingers, limbs, and life in accidents, I’m a stickler for agricultural safety. And by the way, the agricultural-injury rate is higher than in mining, and while we rightly decry the coal industry for cutting corners on worker safety, the number of fatalities among agricultural laborers is 12 times as high.)
Finally, since you are a composter, let me share a fine poem about composting. I recommend affixing a copy of it to your compost box for inspiration. –Bob Schildgen
Bonus: Check out Mr. Green’s compost bin.
Q: I am an avid gardener who takes advantage of composting at every opportunity. I work out of my home office and shred considerable paper which I would like to use in amending my garden soil. Is office paper from an inkjet printer or photocopy machine usable, or are there undesirable chemicals in the paper? Further, are the inks or photocopy chemicals harmful to soil quality? Can I shred old newspaper and use that? (My shredded paper would be rototilled into the soil.)
A: No problem at all composting shredded paper. The ink is carbon and soybean-based nowadays. Mix it with lots of leaves so it doesn’t mat down.
Q: You recently recommended using newspaper as a vegetable garden mulch. Is the Atlanta Journal/Constitution printed with safe inks?
A: According to the editor of the Home and Garden section, the entire paper is printed using soy-based inks. You can use the paper for mulch or you can compost it! Composting paper or cardboard is best done by shredding it and then mixing it with leaves or grass clippings. The newspaper can be food for the mind AND food for the soil!
Q: My office produces a lot of shredded paper. I have been thinking about collecting it and composting it. Will this work?
A: You can compost anything that is organic in nature: shredded paper, shrimp shells, peanut hulls, etc. All that matters to the bacteria and fungi who perform the composting operation is that they get the moisture and oxygen they need. The problem you’ll face in composting the shredded paper is keeping it from matting together and excluding oxygen from the creatures who need it. If you had unlimited time and muscle power, you could flip the pile every day or two until the microbes did their work. Guessing that this is not what you have in mind, I’d say that the best use of the paper is as a mulch under your shrubs and trees. Spread it out, wet it down and cover it with a bit of pine straw. The resulting paper mache’ will prevent weeds better than most other mulches and will let water and fertilizer through just fine.
Tags For This Article: compost, fertilizing, mulch, pine, weeds
Newspaper is a versatile, beneficial material in your garden or landscape. It is also a material that can cause many problems if it is not prepared properly.
Newspaper will have different uses in your garden depending on how, or if, it is shredded. The smaller the size, the quicker it will decompose. So, how you shred your newspaper will ultimately depend on how you intend to use it.
The goal for compost piles is quick decomposition. The greater the surface area of organic material, the more opportunities microbes will have to break it down. Essentially, smaller pieces equal quicker breakdown.
How To Shred Newspaper For Compost. When composting, shred newspaper as thin as possible to speed up decomposition. Tearing or ripping them by hand will work, but may take longer to break down.
Passing newspaper through a standard paper shredder is ideal. You can also buy shredding scissors for small amounts of paper.
Newspaper is a brown, or carbon-based organic material, so you should incorporate it in the brown layers in your pile.
A solid layer of shredded newspaper may form a sheet that prevents water and oxygen from moving through the pile, so mixing it with shredded leaves or twigs will help balance the pile and speed up the decomposition of those tougher materials.
Newspaper helps maintain moisture levels in a compost pile, so it is a great addition for piles in dry climates. However, it also pulls moisture away from other organic materials as they decompose (source). This can help avoid anaerobic conditions, but may also cause an uneven moisture layer if the paper is not spread evenly throughout the pile.
Newspaper improves structure in finished compost. Soil has many properties, and compost can improve them all.
- Green, or nitrogen-based organic material generally helps provide compost with nutrients.
- Brown, or carbon-based organic material helps improve structure.
If you have large amounts of newspaper, you will want to make sure you are adding nutrient-dense green materials to balance out your finished compost.
Shredding Newspaper For Vermicomposting
Vermicomposting is a compost process that uses red wiggler worms to breakdown organic material. It produces small quantities of highly nutritious compost known as castings. There are a variety of options for bins, but almost all of them will require newspaper bedding.
Newspaper is a vital ingredient in vermicomposting, and provides the bulk, carbon, and moisture retention needed to support a worm farm. As worms feed on green material, they pull it down into the bedding. As they digest it, they excrete castings that will eventually settle in the bottom of the worm bin.
Regardless of the style of bin you choose, you should fill it two-thirds of the way with shredded newspaper. Moisten the paper, add a handful of compost or soil, and top it with some green material.
If the bin is maintained properly, you will have usable compost within a few months. Vermicomposting should not smell, and it’s even possible to build bins that fit under the kitchen sink for easy recycling of kitchen scraps.
Shredding Newspaper For Mulch
Because newspaper retains moisture, it is a useful material for mulch. The purpose of mulch is to prevent evaporation, and to gradually add organic matter into the topsoil.
Mulch should be two to three inches thick, and last up to a year. So, if you are planning on using newspaper for mulch, ripping or shredding it by hand will give the best results. This will slow down decomposition enough for it to successfully retain moisture. You can also use a box cutter to cut through multiple sheets at one time.
There are several drawbacks to using newspaper as mulch:
- It’s ugly. While practical, newspaper is not an aesthetic mulch material. It is best suited for vegetable gardens, or as a layer under a more attractive mulch, such as cedar chips.
- It blows away. Putting newspaper down as a mulch layer can be a frustrating ordeal in windy climates. It will eventually matt down and form a layer, but this can take time. If you live in a windy area, you can help prevent this by weighing the newspaper down with rocks, or topping it with grass clippings.
- You need lots of material. Mulch needs to be thick, and depending on the size of your garden, you may need lots of newspapers to fully cover bare soil. If you have other mulch options, such as grass clippings or leaf mold, you can mix them together to help add bulk.
Ultimately, using newspaper as a mulch will require a lot of work. However, if you have a large amount of paper, this is a great way to recycle it and improve the soil structure in your garden.
Using Newspaper As A Weed Barrier
If you don’t have the time or patience to shred a garden’s worth of newspaper, I don’t blame you. Shredded newspaper primarily helps with preventing evaporation, with an added side effect of weed control. Non-shredded newspaper is the opposite; its main benefit is weed control, with some moisture retention.
So, if you have relatively healthy soil structure, using newspaper as a weed barrier may make more sense. However, if you have clay soil, it may exacerbate drainage issues. You can effectively use a newspaper weed barrier on loamy or sandy soils.
The process is straightforward. Simply lay down sheets of newspaper on bare soil where you do not want any seeds to germinate. The thicker the layer, the less chance seeds have of sprouting. However, thicker layers make it harder for water to penetrate. So, as you lay down newspaper, try poking holes with a pitchfork to help with absorption.
Aim for a thickness of 5-10 sheets, and wet it down as you go. If you are only using newspaper in a few small areas, you may be able to weigh it down with rocks. However, if you are using it in a large area, you will probably need to put a layer of mulch on top.
This does not negate the benefits of using newspaper as a weed barrier. The paper will prevent weeds, and the mulch will help with bulk and moisture. Plus, the newspaper will attract earthworms, which will help the overall health and nutrition of your soil.
Recycling newspaper helps in many aspects of sustainability. It keeps unnecessary waste from landfills, decreases the amount of garbage you have to manage, and increases the health of your garden. A little elbow grease and a lot of paper weights can help transform the Classifieds section into something that is actually useful.
For more information on improving soil structure or clay soils, check out our other articles on best soil practices.
Is newspaper ink toxic in compost?
This used to be a concern when inks were primarily petroleum based. Now, with a larger focus on sustainable practices, most inks are made with soy. An easy test is to wipe your finger across some black text.
If your finger has a black residue, it is likely petroleum ink. If not, it’s probably soy. Now, even if it is petroleum based, many studies show that the toxicity is negligible, and likely does not affect finished compost.
If you are concerned about the toxicity, you can always contact the newspaper publisher and ask for specifics on their ink.
What paper can I use in compost?
Most shredded paper will be fine in compost. However, heavily-inked pages, construction paper, glossy paper, and any other specialty paper either won’t decompose properly, or may be harmful to your compost pile.
If you are getting shredded paper from an office setting, it should be fine. You will want to watch out for staples and plastic windows on envelopes that may have been shredded, but even a minimal amount of these can be sorted out of finished compost as you use it.
Where can I find shredded paper/newspaper?
Your best free source will be your place of work and friends. If you want whole newspapers, ask local publishers if you can pick up unused copies or misprints.
You can also call local recycling centers to see if you can take home recycled stacks before they are shredded. Most large companies and shredding services cannot sell or give away shredded paper due to security concerns.