Is It OK To Put Shredded Paper In Compost?

Is It OK To Put Shredded Paper In Compost

Last updated on June 4th, 2021

There’s quite a lot of debate surrounding whether or not you can put shredded paper in your compost bin. However, for the most part, it’s absolutely fine to add shredded paper to your compost. In fact, it will be highly beneficial as it’s one of the “brown” materials that are essential for providing carbon and helping the decomposition process.

Shredded paper also helps your compost retain warmth and any worms living in your compost heap will use it as shelter. However, there are some things that you need to make sure you’re doing before you add shredded paper to your compost. 

First of all, you need to mix it with another compostable material such as grass clipping or dried leaves. You should also soak it in water first. This will stop it from clumping together and inhibiting the movement of oxygen through your compost, which the microorganisms responsible for processing it depend on to live. 

You also need to make sure that the shredded paper you’re putting in your compost is actually suitable for composting. To make things easier, we’ve included a list of types of paper that can be composted and those that can’t below:

Suitable Types of Paper for Composting

  • Envelopes
  • Household bills
  • Junk mail (not printed on glossy paper) 
  • Notebook paper
  • Personal letters
  • Scrap paper
  • Newspaper
  • Printer paper (even if it’s been printed on)

Unsuitable Types of Paper for Composting

  • Foil or metallic paper
  • Construction paper of any color
  • Glossy paper
  • Magazine paper 
  • Wax paper
  • Receipts

So, as you can see, most of the paper that finds its way into your home can be shredded and added to your compost as long as you mix it with another material first.

Can shredded paper be composted with ink?

If you’d like to add paper to your compost heap that has been printed on, you’ll have to do a little investigating first. While most types of paper can be composted, not all types of ink are suitable for composting.

If the ink that has been used on the paper is vegetable-based, soy-based, or non-toxic, then it’s absolutely fine to add this to your compost. However, if there is lots of ink on it or the ink used isn’t compostable (such as certain printer inks, Sharpies, and ballpoint pens) then you shouldn’t add it to your compost. Instead, it’s a better idea to put these in your household recycling bin. 

You might be wondering whether it’s ok to put receipts in your compost. To put it simply, no, you shouldn’t put receipts on your compost heap. While receipts aren’t technically printed onto using ink and use a heat process that burns into thermal paper, it’s the paper itself that’s the issue.

Receipt paper is infused with BPA (bisphenol A). This is the same substance that goes into making plastics and resins, neither of which are compostable. So, when it comes to receipts, you’re better off putting them in your recycling bin.  

But what about newspapers? This is a completely different story from receipts. It’s absolutely fine to add newspapers to your compost heap as the ink used for newspapers nowadays is 100% non-toxic. This includes black and colored ink. 

Is shredded paper good for the garden?

Yes, shredded paper is excellent for use around the garden! It can also be used in a variety of different ways. Let’s take a look at each of them below.

  • Composting: Add some essential carbon to your compost heap by mixing shredded paper with another compostable material (such as grass clippings or dried leaves). It also helps to keep it insulated, helping to speed up the composting process and giving any minibeasts living in your compost a place to shelter.
  • Trenches: If you’re growing peas or beans of any kind, you can take advantage of shredded paper’s moisture retentive properties by adding it to trenches. This will allow the roots of your vegetables to access water whenever they need it and it will also reduce the risk of accidentally overwatering them.
  • Mulching: As the year progresses, the soil that your plants live in is either at risk of drying out or freezing. By adding a thick mulch of shredded paper to the earth, you can stop both of these things from happening. During summer, it will stop the heat of the sun draining the soil of all its moisture. During the winter, it will be the first thing to get hit by the frost, keeping the soil warmer and stopping the roots from getting damaged. 
  • Seed Starters: We’re all trying to do our bit to stop using as much plastic, and shredded paper is one of your best tools for doing this. Simply mix some shredded paper with water to create a pulp, set it in a large ice cube tray, and you’ll have your very own compostable seed starters. The best thing about these is that you can plant them directly into the soil when they’re ready to go outdoors, cutting your gardening work in half and adding nutrients to the earth at the same time. 

It is important to note, however, that not all shredded paper can be composted. Nor can all papers that have been printed or drawn on. Take a look at our list of suitable papers for composting above. 

Do worms eat shredded paper?

Yes, they do! In fact, shredded paper is a vital part of any vermicomposter makeup. But, it’s not necessarily the shredded paper itself that worms are tempted by. Adding shredded paper to your compost pile helps the microbe population flourish, and it’s these microbes that the worms are actually eating. The shredded paper is essentially just an edible dinner plate!

If you’re thinking about adding shredded paper to your compost heap or vermicomposter, you’ll need to make sure that it is mixed with another compostable material first. It’s also a good idea to soak the shredded paper in water first, as this will help speed up the decomposition process.