When creating a compost pile we all know that we can add in all the organic materials we can lay our hands on including the waste foods and scraps from the kitchen.
However, the big question that seems to come up constantly is whether or not it is safe composting paper.
Depending on the paper, you can compost certain papers and they can become a very important part of your compost pile.
The “Write” Stuff
One of the biggest considerations when composting paper is deciding what kind of paper you can compost and which ones you need to send off to be recycled.
The biggest question about the different papers is about the inks that are used to for printing.
For many years all inks contained a variety of metals and chemicals that are known to be less than healthy.
While modern inks are somewhat healthier than this, there are still some papers that you should not compost.
This includes all the shiny circulars and advertisements that come stuffed into your daily papers, those used as labels on your canned goods as the chemical and metal contents are likely to still be somewhat higher than you want in your compost.
For centuries the inks used for printing on a large scale used petroleum based binders and pigments that were often made using heavy metals such as lead.
Today much of the industry is switching over to inks that are soy and vegetable based, but even these may still have petroleum bases.
Heavy metals such as copper and zinc are still used in pigments in much smaller amounts and have been deemed as safe for use in garden compost.
The Benefits of Adding Paper to Your Compost
Despite the concerns over the inks used to print on paper, there are still benefits to adding shredded newspaper, paper towels, thin cardboard and many other forms of paper products to your compost pile.
One benefit of composting paper products , is that it will absorb much of the free water in your compost which will help to keep the formation of mold from occurring and causing unpleasant odors.
If you are adding grass clippings and other greens that are high in nitrogen, adding shredded paper will add a good source of carbon which is vital to the composting process.
Since paper is a plant based product, adding it to your compost will be returning it to the soil and in turn adding vital nutrients into what can be seriously depleted soils.
Prepping Your Papers
Composting paper is a relatively easy task; however, you can’t simply throw big wads of paper into your compost pile and expect it to decompose properly.
In order for the paper to compost properly it needs to be shredded or at least be reasonably small, for example I wouldn’t bother tearing a paper towel but a piece of A4 I might roughly rip up into a few pieces.A
A cheap paper shredder to shred your personal documents, is really useful. I wait until I have a bunch of papers to be shredded and do a them all at one time.
The alternative if you have younger children at home, is to let them go to town shredding the paper for you. They will think you are a bit mad but not only does all of your paper get torn into tiny shreds, this will keep your kids happy for hours.
Add the paper to your compost pile in layers, just as you would any other brown waste such as dead leaves and so forth in between the greens.
Add a little water to keep things moist and turn to keep everything evenly distributed.
Within a few months, you will have wonderfully rich compost that you can use anywhere in your garden.