Can You Compost Shredded Paper?

Updated on March 9, 2020
Joe Macho profile image

Zach's writing ranges from matters of gardening, cooking, aquariums, and fish to more niche topics like coin collecting.

You might be surprised by what shredded paper can do for your compost.
You might be surprised by what shredded paper can do for your compost. | Source

Composting kitchen scraps and waste materials is a great way to reduce your environmental impact, but for those who are newer to the practice, it can be difficult to find information about what can and can't be composted. Although this article won't provide a complete list of compost-safe items, it will discuss one waste material that many modern households (and businesses) have an abundance of: shredded paper!

So, can you use shredded paper in compost? In short, the answer is yes—you sure can. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of using shredded paper in your compost and go over which paper types should and should not be composted.

4 Benefits of Shredded Paper in Compost

Over the years, you may have come to believe that credit card companies, insurance agencies, and retail advertisers that send a constant stream of junk mail and bills do so just to infuriate you. While you have every right to be irked with the bills, there's no need to be frustrated with the excess amount of paper.

When you take a second glance at the matter, you'll see that these wasteful companies have just been trying to help keep your garden healthy and productive. Okay, maybe that's not their reasoning, but with all the benefits that shredded paper can provide for compost, it might as well be! Here's how shredded paper can be useful for your compost and garden.

1. It's a Great Source of Carbon

Shredded paper in the form of newsprint and bank/credit card statements can provide an excellent source of carbon, a required component of any composting system. A healthy compost thrives on a ratio of 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Since paper is almost entirely carbon, it can greatly help balance a compost that has been supplied with too much nitrogenous matter.

2. It Helps Soil Retain Moisture

Moisture absorption and water retention are both increased when shredded paper is used for composting. The natural properties of paper allow it to wick moisture away from decomposing organic material. This process helps the material break down faster and reduces odors and leakage issues. When used in soil, composted shredded paper can benefit plants by promoting vital moisture retention at the root level.

3. It Boosts Soil Volume

Including shredded paper in your composting process can also help bulk up the volume of your soil. There will be more finished compost to go around if shredded paper is used in the composting process.

4. Worms Love It

Worms thrive in compost with the addition of shredded paper. If you plan to do even the slightest bit of vermicomposting, you'll find that worms will actively eat and seek shelter in the shredded paper.

Most bills, letters, and documents printed on plain paper are ideal for composting.
Most bills, letters, and documents printed on plain paper are ideal for composting. | Source

Which Types of Paper Are Safe for Composting?

Trying to find information about safe types of paper to use for composting is like pulling teeth—it's quite the painful process, as there many articles with conflicting information. Some sources claim that bleached papers and the inks used for printing can be dangerous and therefore should not be used in compost.

While this claim was valid years ago, the truth of the matter is that the paper and printing industries have come a long way from where they once were. The majority of papers and inks produced in the modern day are virtually contaminant-free, and according to the Composting Council, compost produced with paper products almost always contains fewer overall contaminants than compost produced using yard trimmings only. Here's a general list of paper types that are considered safe for composting.

Compost-Safe Paper Varieties

  • Bills
  • Credit card statements
  • Non-glossy junk mail
  • Envelopes
  • Office paper (plain or printed on)
  • Receipts
  • Newsprint
  • Notebook paper
  • Used school/work papers
  • Scrap paper

Some people avoid using brightly-colored, fluorescent, waxy, or glossy paper in their compost so as to mitigate the risk of contaminants.
Some people avoid using brightly-colored, fluorescent, waxy, or glossy paper in their compost so as to mitigate the risk of contaminants. | Source

Which Types of Paper Should You Take Caution With?

While all shredded paper can be a great source of carbon and will easily break down in compost, you may want to avoid certain heavily inked and processed papers. Highly processed papers may contain heavy metals and poisonous inks, waxes, and clays. Though a healthy and matured compost will bind most heavy metals into insoluble forms and break down any harmful compounds (including pesticides and inks), you may want to stay away from these paper types for peace of mind.

Compost-Questionable Paper Varieties

  • Glossy paper
  • Waxy paper
  • Magazine paper
  • Fluorescent colored paper
  • Paper with metallic ink
  • Colored construction paper

Please keep in mind that this list is not intended to scare you away from composting these materials. According to the Composting Council, the above paper products are considered safe for composting use. Many gardeners compost these materials with no complications and are not worried about the potential for contaminants. In the end, the choice to compost these materials is in your hands. Stay within your own comfort zone.

Food for Soil and Food for Thought

On a final note, I would personally recommend that you compost as many paper products and junk mail letters as possible! Every paper composted is a paper saved from the harmful process of paper recycling—or worse yet, wasteful landfill disposal. For those of you who are still skeptical, I find it helps to look at the situation this way: there are pollutants virtually all around us, both in the air and in the water table. Does it really do that much harm if some contaminants end up as insoluble compounds in the soil? After all, there's probably not a single place on earth that is completely contaminant-free. So, in my opinion, it's much better to compost than not to compost. Thank you for reading!

References and Additional Reading

  • Bauer, Mary. The Negative Effects of Recycling Paper. N.p.: Livestrong, 2011. N. pag. Web. 8 Mar. 2012.
  • Grimes, S. M., Taylor, G. H. and Cooper, J. (1999), The availability and binding of heavy metals in compost derived from household waste. J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol., 74: 1125–1130. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4660(199912)74:12<1125::AID-JCTB171>3.0.CO;2-I
  • Ivring, Joan. Construction Paper: A Brief History of Impermanence. Vol. 16. San Diego, CA: The American Institute for Conservation, 1997. N. pag. Web. 8 Mar. 2012.
  • Ritter, Steve. "What's That Stuff? - Ink." Chemical Engineering and News 76.46 (1998). Web. 8 Mar. 2012.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Zach


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Leeanne Osborne 

      18 months ago

      Thanks. I have bags and bags of shredded paper waiting for a purpose. I have been using a bit of it for composting but I will be more liberal and use it also as mulch.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      8 years ago from United States

      Lots of great detail. Excellent hub! Voted up & awesome.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Really educational. I thought the ratios would have been reversed - much less carbon, more nitrogen. Now I don't feel so bad tossing paper towels in my composting barrel! Our garden is close to being ready to plant things, so I'll start composting paper & other stuff (esp. coffee grounds) too.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Never thought of using paper for composting. Thanks for the advice.

      Voted useful and interesting. Socially shared.

    • Joe Macho profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Colorado

      That's great Emma! I'm glad to hear that your compost bin has been at the center of your attention lately. Mine has been too. I've been trying to make as much as possible so paper, leaves, horse & goat manure, kitchen scraps and coffee grounds have all hit the compost in good numbers. Good luck and thanks for your feedback.

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 

      8 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      We have been using our compost bin a lot recently and throw all our food scraps, teabags and egg shells in. But I never thought to compost paper. This is very interesting, and will try out this method in future.

      Voting up.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)