cardboard and newspaper-safe to compost?

rpondpa(5)January 28, 2007

I have read several posts that newsprint, being made of soy, is now safe to print.

One post led me to this article which states that newspapers and cardboard are not desireable in compost piles.

What of this?

As long as we're on the topic, what of xeroxed paper, laser and inkjet inks. Are these nasty? Are there any chemists in this forum who could respond?

Thank you.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mike McGrath ought to know better.

"I know that many uninformed sources advise using shredded newspapers and cardboard as the Âdry browns in a compost pile, but: 1) newspaper ink is more toxic than these people realize; 2) newsprint is bleached, creating cancer-causing dioxins; and 3) cardboard contains nasty glues and other chemical ÂfillersÂ. More importantly, these things contain zero nutrition for your plants. If you donÂt have enough leaves, experiment with wood shavings or sawdust. They can be difficult to compost, but are far superior to heavily processed paper products."

First, newspaper ink is almost entirely soy-based, and non-toxic.

Second, all newsprint is not bleached, and bleached paper stock is not necessarily harmful or toxic. The cardstock my plant bands are made with are bleached board, and are completley harmless.

Third, Corrugated cartons are made with starch glues, from plant starch like Corn and Potato. They are 100% biodegradable and non-toxic.

Fourth, in this country, the conditions I describe above are mandated by state and federal legislation, and are monitored by a variety of agencies, like EPA, for manufacturer compliance.

Fifth, No nutes in paper products? Horsehockey! Many of the same nutrients, both micro and macro, found in dried leaves and sawdust or wood shavings are found in paper products. Most of the paper in newsprint and corrugation is from wood pulp. Also, the primary purpose of dry browns in compost is to provide Carbon to the composting process. It's more of an energizer than a feeding process. Nitrogen is the fuel, and Carbon is the spark.

Xerox paper, laser printer ink and inkjet ink. Most of the same legislative controls apply. You can check the composition of the inks by looking at MSDS information from the manufacturers.

Paper borne substances to avoid are shiny coatings on paper (like glossy magazines), and plastic tape on boxes. They don't belong in your compost. Brown paper tapes on cartons from many sources are now fully biodegradable, and use the same plant starch glues found in corrugation.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 7:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Demeter(z6 NJ)

The glossy coating on most papers and cardboard is actually kaolin clay, so that's okay for the compost pile. The problem is that the coating itself protects the paper and delays breakdown; such papers are best shredded to increase the amount of "edge" where the water can seep in.

Some cardboard boxes have wax or plastic coatings; these won't compost. The plastic tape won't compost but it won't hurt anything if you put a box in, it composts and you pull the tape out later. (I've heard you can put in a cardboard coffee cup lined with plastic and later pull out the plastic, still perfectly formed into the cup, but I haven't done it.)

Avoid composting boxes or papers that have fluorescent or metallic inks on them (or fluorescent paper itself) - those pigments can have toxic components.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 8:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brdldystlu(5b Mo)

I use lots of cardboard and newspaper in my gardens for weed barrier. The cardboard I don't bother to tear the tape off, will take out any stapels though as I like to garden in bare feet. The next year I find the tape again when I work over the soil. I sometimes find it when I am raking the soil and I just pull it out then. It is very clean of any cardboard. I have used the "cardboard" ice cream containers to gather kitchen stuff in till I can take it out to the tumbler. I throw the whole thing in. Only later to pull out the plastic wrapper, took me a couple times to even realize what I was pulling out.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 8:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All paper in our part of the world is made of wood fiber, the soya is used to make the ink. Donn has refuted all of Mcgraths objections quite well and I would simply add that really white paper, not newsprint, which is bleached using chlorine is washed quite thoroughly to remove that chlorine because that bleach will interfere with further processing of the fibers.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 6:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
david52 Zone 6

I find that the glossy magazines and catalogs break down quicker than newspaper. The best method I've found for paper is to fill a 5 gal bucket about half full with paper, then fill the rest with water and let it soak overnight. I use a bulb auger with an electric drill to turn it all to mush. That breaks down very quickly in the compost pile. If I just tear the wet newspaper into strips, it stays there at least a year.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 5:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with david assesment on how to get the newspaper to degrade faster. If you soak the paper strips in water for a day, they become waaterlogged and then start to decenegrate easily. If these strips are only soaked for a couple of hours or not at all, then they essentially tranform into a hardended paper mache substance in your compost bin and will last indefinatey.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 1:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have been composting 100s of boxes in my compost piles to keep it out of landfills. The following year I find some tape. I also compost all chipboard,neighbors' newspaper,junkmail, etc. I do not do glossy stuff, but it interesting to see what does not compost. I also have a worm bin and have reduced my garbage by 90% (1 small bag a month). I also take a lot of my neighbors trash out of the stream.and make over 100 5gal. buckets of great compost to use and give away. I figure my "cost" of trash removal is over $900 per ton because I give them only 200 lbs of trash and recyclables in 6 months, but Allied Waste does not seem impressed enough to try to encourage composting, which I have offered free classes. It is a fun obsession to see what can be used at home, instead of burning fuel to haul it to a landfill. I wish there was a contest!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 3:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks all for the great info on newspaper/paper/glossy ink/is it safe? composting.

I've been composting our veggie leftovers for years, with red worms. Our garden is languishing because we don't have enough sun (live in the forest) but the worms are loving the food, the castings are great when we do use 'em, and the trees feed on the pile directly.

I'm getting ready to start doing composting with paper as well. Even with "recycling" I just don't see sending junk mail and newsprint back into energy (fossil fuel) intensive processes.

So, I'm looking for a shredder so I don't have to fire up my fossil fuel consuming chipper/shredder. Meanwhile, I'll just tear the stuff up by hand.

As I now like to say "feed it to the worms!".

Thanks again for the great info.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 2:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have an office shredder that shreds and cuts so what comes out is 1" long and 1/8" wide bits. Preparing for my future worm bin I saved a large black plastic bag full. I used it to make a bed for my red wigglers and fed them other food scraps. It's been three months and as far as I can determine the worms have not bitten the first piece of paper. I am removing it as I work the bin. Concerning newsprint, today for the first time I used my Flowtron LE900 electric Leaf Shredder to shred my newspapers. It worked fabulously. I'm going to do the soak for a day routine and start another compost pile when I have some green material, we are in drought conditions.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 30, 2010 at 9:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If newspaper/cardboard is bad, then why do redworms love It?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 9:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do any of you know of a well respected publication that supports the statements presented in this forum. I tend to agree with the statements saying that these items are good to for the garden, but would like to see it in print if possible. What are the specific names of the laws governing the manufacturing of these items? Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 3:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Its been my experience that newspaper, pulled into strips, decomposes very quickly, one of the easiest of any addition to the pile. I never let a Sunday edition go by without cutting up at least one section.
The editions that are already from recycled paper is the first that is stripped, then when I feel the pile needs more, I do other sections.
Cardboard, once thorughly wetted also is quick to dissolve.
The glues that they use to bind the paper is not one that will interfere with composting and will also break down in its time.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 7:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks donn, always good to hear from some one who works with a thing & knows the TRUTH!
As for printed proof, ask for the MSDS sheets or search on the msds sheet.
I have one question, with all due respect, does anyone get leaves off the street in fall & winter anymore. I past more then I can haul every day & I live only 6 miles from work to home.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 8:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Travis, are you looking for laws of the type that a government would pass or physical laws, the laws of science. While governmental units may well have laws that regulate the discharge of waste and by products of paper manufacture none of those laws regulate how the paper is manufactured, although the laws of science do.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 7:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This message is for Donald Duquet, you can use coffee grounds and horse or cow manure for your green or nitrogen material for your compost when you are short on grass clippings. Local coffee shops will accomodate you if you give them an empty/clean container to put the used grounds in. I have found that worms love this. The manure because of its high nitrogen content, roughly 23:1 is also good for adding to the cardboard which is higher in carbon, happy composting. Your vehicle will also smell better transporting the coffee grounds.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 1:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm a little late getting involved in this conversation, but could use a bit of help or some contact info. Personally I've composted cardboard (small, wet, food contaminated) for years and have found no problems, but have had little luck working with our state environmental agencies in obtaining regulatory approval to allow existing commercial greenwaste composters to accept the significant amount on cardboard rejected by our recycler due to food contamination or excess moisture. They have vague concerns such as possible contaminaion in some inks, issues with copper staples, etc. Does anyone know of a jurisdiction where the reglatory agency has resolved these issues and approved a permit to accept cardboard? What regulatory conditions did they require? Mahalo for any information.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 2:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Can they point to any data that can validate their "vague concerns"? Ask them to justify NOT accepting it by finding recent analysis of waste cardboard with excessive heavy metals from the ink.

You can possibly work it from the cardboard production end: printers prefer to avoid working with ink that has heavy metals in it because of the expensive cleanup and disposal required ... the leap to soy-based inks happened a couple of DECADES ago.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 10:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is an old thread, but I have a question on newspaper composting and I do not want to start a new thread.

Can I compost flyers? Every week I am getting a large bundle of flyers, in most cases I throw them into my garbage recycle bin to be picked up by the garbage collectors once a week. Can I throw them into my compost pile instead? Is color ink toxic?
What about newspapers that have some color ink, but mostly black? Can I compost those?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 2:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Newspapers today are printed using soya based inks, even the colored inks are soya based. You can compost them.
Those glossy, full color, ads you receive in the mail would not be good candidates for composting, not because the inks might be toxic but because they have been laquared which makes composting very difficult, even though most are probably full of manure.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 7:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Nevermore44 - 6a

i will periodically compost shredded paper... phone books... cardboard, etc if i need some dry brown materials... but as others note.. soy inks aren't completely "eco-friendly" to 100%. A very small portion of the inks and the coatings are composed of non-eco friendly based materials. So if you want to be a 100% organic stickler... you should recycle it if you have the ability vs route to your garden. The benefits i would think still outweigh the sliver of negatives... as many things in life are.

I opt to recycle as much as possible since many of the printed items (not counting newsprint and phonebooks type media) you receive have an aqueous coating on them... which isn't like the high gloss stuff... but non-the-less isn't good for the ground.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 11:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I burnt some colorful inserts from Sunday's newspaper and the inserts flames were true greens, purples, blues and rich reds.

Those can easily contain toxic components, certain chemicals burn certain colors.
Get a burn chart and one will have an idea exactly what they truly consist of and it is more than just soya.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 11:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi if I compost cardboard, do I have to soak them overnight?

Also for worm bin composters:

I introduced worm composting to my workplace and got everyone excited about composting their shredded papers. We bought about 2000 worms and I embarrassingly killed almost 80% of them.

After lots of research I learned that most office printer papers are bleached heavily with chlorine. I now stick to newspapers only.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 1:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You may need to soak the cardboard, although probably not overnight.
The white paper is bleached. Fairly common in the past was using chlorine bleach which is rinsed out of the pulp before it is made into paper. There is a method of changing that brown wood pulp into white pulp to make white paper using Hydrogen Peroxide. Your white paper will not have a lot of chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide in the finished product.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 7:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just started a SFG and composting. I want to do the vermicomposting method. this forum has answered many of my questions esp about using colored news papers although there is a differing of opinion. My question is that since I will be using a plastic bin and drilling holes in it, How can I collect the " tea" . Should I put it at an angle and let the tea go though one hole and drain into a pot? thanks!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Perhaps the link below might be of some help.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Vermicomposting

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 6:46AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Planting in area covered with "playground" wood chips
I need some advice... I recently had a small playhouse...
starting a new nursery/retail landscape supply business
lots of good reading here. I am looking at starting...
Using mushroom spawn or spores
How do I add mushroom spore or spawn to raised bed...
Can I use Miracle Gro Garden Soil by itself ?
I just bought Miracle Gro Garden Soil with some bags...
Potting soil using mostly soil conditioner mix?
I want to use a product from Lowes, made by Gro Well...
Sponsored Products
Shiner International Flex King Platform Bed
Moooi | Paper Side Table
$566.00 | YLighting
Traditional Redwood Case Wine Rack
Paper Table Lamp
Metalarte | Walden P Floor Lamp
Moooi | Paper Side Table
Shiner International Rocking King Platform Bed
Herman Miller | Capelli Stool - Quick Ship
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™