Composting paper towels/plates

sfg_newbie(6)February 20, 2008

I'd like to start composting my paper towels/plates, cardboard rolls from tp/paper towels - more to keep them out of the landfill than for nutritional value for the soil. I get about 4 bags of UCG from Starbucks a week.

Is it reasonable to just toss the paper products in my wire bin and mix in the UCG when I get them? The pile will be ONLY paper products and UCG. Will that be a sufficient amount of greens to break down the paper? Should I be adding my shredded newspapers and junk mail to the pile as well, or is that too much for the amount of UCG?

This will obviously be a cold pile, but I'm fairly sure it will break down in a reasonable amount of time (ie. a year or so), right?

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madmagic(dtown Toronto)

The answers kinda depend on the balance of the greens and browns you add, which you'll likely have to determine by experimentation.

I find UCG as a nitrogen source compost all my household paper and cardboard really well. Much of the time I add the UCG directly to the garden soil, then pick out the paper filters by hand, and layer them over a thin layer of household paper or tree leaves. It always breaks down beautifully.

"IALBTC." -- Prof. Dirt

All the best,

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 2:50PM
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It All Leads Back To Compost.

I toss everything in:

If I have time & I'm in the mood to rip & tear, I rip & tear, & it breaks down faster.

You can take the Mother Nature approach:
Mother Nature throws in whatever materials she has, & IALBTC, sometimes faster & sometimes not as fast.

If "not as fast" isn't fast enough, you can always add more greens.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 3:08PM
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Ive done it all ways. If I have time, I tear/shred it to pieces. I think I broke my shredder, tho, it only works in reverse mode. hee

I put a large TIDE box last summer and all that was left is the plastic handle.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 4:20PM
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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Throw it all in. Consider tossing in your kitchen scraps. Bury them well. Some natural liquid fertilizer would be a good source of moisture and nitrogen and may make your pile heat up. Leaves are great for the compost pile if you can get some. Bill Hill

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 5:40PM
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Garbage in-Compost out.
The End.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 5:55PM
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Just celulose, paper, which has no nutrients in the product at all and coffee grounds would eventually become a compost like material but most likely with little to no nutrients in the mix. If you put a nutrient barren product into your compost pile you will get a nutient less end product, add some other organic material that has nutrients, such as leaves or kitchen waste, to get some nutrients in that mix.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 8:20AM
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I compost all my paper plates, paper towels, used kleenex, junk mail, magazines, phone books, corrugated boxes, cereal boxes, labels from cans ... even traffic tickets and old unpaid bills...(grin)

Paper added to the compost pile will help to increase the amount of carbon needed to off-set the nitrogen in your pile. The ideal 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen is sometimes difficult to achieve during the composting season. When I run out of leaves, I use the paper I stockpile all winter.

Paper will also help control moisture in a pile that is too wet and has started to smell.

Most of my paper is shredded and I find it composts rapidly.

Locally I can only recycle about 1/3 of the paper I accumulate, so composting is a "greener use" of the material.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 1:22PM
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I also put coffee filters and teabags into my compost pile. I use newspapers under mulch around newly planted trees and shrubs to keep weeds down, and after 1 season they are usually broken down.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 4:23PM
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I put pretty much everything paper in my pile too. Especially with the amount of junk mail you get now days! The paperboard (Cereal boxes, etc) I'm not even bothering to tear up. I thought it would be easier to just put them down flat to help with weed control ;)


    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 9:02AM
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micronthecat(7, North Carolina)

What about INK and chemicals on the paper products. I just yelled into the living room to tell my wife about composting paper and the first thing she said is, what about the ink?


    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 9:23PM
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The inks today are generally considered to be perfectly safe to add to piles. They are devoid of the heavy metals that used to be a concern for some packaging. I add huge amounts of paper and paper products to the pile. Note that these materials are almost pure carbon, but that they can, in fact, contribute to garden fertility. The reason is that the carbon acts as a base for bacteria which develop which fix atmospheric nitrogen. So, for a very carbon rich feedstock, you can end up with more nitrogen than you input in feedstock. For fastest decomposition, however, a bit of nitrogen material will really help.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 7:26AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

You covered my points exactly, renais. Composting stabilizes carbon and minor but important amounts of soluble and less soluble nutrients.

I once visited a paper-products plant in Oxnard, CA. The company was successfully composting vast heaps of wet waste colored pulp.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 11:55AM
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Composting is great! I like to visit this forum just to get close to the great cycle of life.
I add paper towels to my pile also. With the paper towels, coffee refuse and other scraps, the composting process begins in my kitchen.
I have about 15 bags of leaves from the Fall, so I should be able to produce quite a bit of compost this Spring and Summer.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 12:13PM
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micronthecat(7, North Carolina)

Great, thanks much! My shredder is going to get a workout now, and I just put a brown paper grocery sack by the trash can in the kitchen, which is holding torn-up packaging paperboard. Woo hoo!


    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 12:06AM
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I know this is an old thread but my wife was just yelling at me for paper plates because she thought the wax (if that's even still what they're using) on them would be bad for the pile. But I love that IALBTC. The system works when we let it.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 9:10PM
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