Can you compost printed paper or newspaper?
I recently shared a video on TikTok showing how I use this paper shredder to break down waste paper for my worm bin and compost pile. Understandably, there were a lot of questions asking about the effect of inks and colored papers, and whether it’s safe to compost printed paper.
The research I’ve done suggests that it’s safe to compost printed papers, including newsprint, as well as bleached paper or paper with colored ink on it. That’s because most ink is now soy based rather than petroleum based. In general, the information that it’s not safe to compost these items is considered outdated.
It is still generally considered better not to include glossy paper or any paper that has a thick coating or metallic elements.
Having said that, I encourage people to make their own decision and to do their own research (I’ve linked some sources below) on composting paper. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel safe or right to you. There are plenty of options for recycling paper without composting it.
Notes about composting paper
I compost a lot of brown paper, as well, so printed or colored ink papers make up a very small proportion of the overall material in my compost pile or worm bin.
It’s been my anecdotal experience that bleached or white paper breaks down more quickly than brown paper.
And, of course, the smaller the pieces of paper, the faster they will break down. My crosscut shredder produces a very small square – it’s perfect for worm bedding but not great for my outdoor composting bin. When I need to add browns (carbons) to my outdoor bin, I prefer to tear paper into big strips or use strips or pieces of cardboard.
White or bleached paper seems to clump more readily than brown paper.
These are the sources I’ve used to reach the conclusion that it’s safe to include bleached paper, printed paper, and paper with colored inks in my compost pile.