Using Shredded Paper in the Compost Pile

The Pagan Pig

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According to what I have researched on using paper in the compost pile, everything seems to point to “newspapers” being safe because all the publishers have switched to non toxic forms of ink.

My question is: Does this include printed paper like billing statements, junk mail, envelopes, laser computer print outs and the like. So far I haven’t been able to positively document that these items are safe to shred and toss into the compost pile for the vegetable garden. Has anyone come across any information that says this type of printed material is safe for the compost used in the vegetable garden?
 

Britesea

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I know that a lot of paper has been coated, (to keep ink from smearing?) and I don't think that's good. As for the rest, I suppose you could shred it and use it as mulch for flowers or something?
 

Hinotori

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I never have enough paper for more than lighting the firepit on occasion so I haven't looked into it. I don't use it in the woodstove.

Newsprint should be fine for composting.
 

The Pagan Pig

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I had always thought that newspaper was OK too. Most modern ink is now soy based, which is good. The bad seems to be the ingredients that make up the color and fixatives. Most of these items are not good. Also the vibrant colors on packaging are made with “heavy Metals”. Lead is one of the most common. The verdict on newspaper is iffy at best but widely accepted as OK to use in compost.

The junk mail and bill statements are printed with toner. Toner is made up mostly of plastic dust and smaller amounts of other stuff. In small amounts the toner isn’t toxic but I don’t think I want to be adding plastic to my soil or taking the chance of the vegetable plant, or other plants, taking it up systemically and then me eating it.

I’m still digging around for answers but I think I have about decided that I will have to do something with the junk mail other than compost it.
 

flowerbug

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the only thing i don't worm compost are shiny package materials that might have plastic coatings. so anything like a craft paper or plain cardboards i'm fine with it, black ink printed on cardboard, ok with me. i try not to put too many shiny magazine type printing in the worm bin, but when i have in the past the worms have seemed to find that very attractive (mineral salts perhaps?) and i can see where they've sucked the stuff off the paper when it gets damp enough.

regular white paper the issue is more the bleaches/trace chemicals left over from bleaching but i'm pretty sure that by the time the worms, fungi, bacteria, etc are done with the shredded papers it's all pretty much going to be a minimal problem. many paper smoothing agents are things like clay or starch which are both rather benign.

longer term the things to watch out for are toxic metal contamination and any longer term persistent chemicals that can act on us biologically somehow (hormone mimicry being the one talked about the most from what i recall). as far as the metals go the worst are the accumulative toxics like mercury, chromium compounds, lead, cadmium and probably some others i'm forgetting about (probably too many in my brain :) ).

as i've used many hundreds of pounds of shredded white paper in the worm bins over the years and the worms haven't died i'd say it is relatively safe enough as it is in small enough quantities and i don't use the worm compost in the same garden each year it gets spread around so i'm probably using it in a garden once every four to six years (we have clay soil and it holds nutrients well plus i rotate plantings so my heaviest feeders aren't going in the same gardens each year).

newsprint i use as weed barrier down in holes where i bury things i want to not have an easy time coming back up again. eventually it all gets broken down.

my preference though is cardboard and craft paper and cardstock that is brown without any printing on it or black ink only. those are all things that worms break down.

i just have to beware of any materials where sometimes i've found a plastic layer sandwiched between cardboard. unfortunately i found this out after the material was shredded and used in worm bins and then got put out into the gardens where it has taken some years to pick up all the bits of plastic as i find them. uhg. no fun. ...
 

The Pagan Pig

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I don’t think there is a definitive answer to this question. So, it is my opinion that adding paper with printing to the compost pile is a “No”. The two exceptions to that would be newspapers and brown cardboard. Since I have way more dead leaves around here than waste paper I will just use the leaves for my carbon input.

I added a few sources for anyone who may want to learn a little more about the subject. If nothing else, I learned a lot about how printers work.

Thanks everyone for your input ….

*****
3 years ago
I worked a a large printer manufacture. The ink jet paper was printed with vegetable based ink. I feel it is safe. Our newspaper is printed with soy based ink, and I am sure it is safe. The Laserjet ink is small beads of plastic that are melted into the paper. I do not think this is good to put in the garden. It would be quite a small amount, but I prefer to recycle the Laserjet paper. I work with our local extension office a lot in composting, so I wrote to HP and Cannon. Neither would answer the question of "is laser jet ink safe in the compost". That tells me it is probably not.
https://www.houzz.com/discussions/1529778/composting-laser-printed-paper-safe
*****
Q. I'm a devoted fan of your show looking for composting advice. Many gardening websites recommend adding shredded paper to your compost pile. I'm concerned that the ink on printed paper contains chemicals, and I won't have a truly organic compost come next spring. So should I add paper? Not add paper? Help!
---XXXXX in Doylestown, PA

A. Unfortunately, many people who give composting advice have never actually done it, are not thinking their recommendations through, or both. I've composted for 25 years, tend to think things through maybe too much, and don't like the idea of composting paper for many reasons.

Paper is one of the most easily recycled materials in today's enlightened world. Virtually everyone has an easy way to get old newspapers, magazines and mixed paper into a stream where it gets turned into more paper, tissues, toilet paper or some other essential element of modern society, thus reducing the need for the raw material needed to make virgin paper (otherwise known as 'trees'). 


While some modern inks (like the soy-based inks that have become popular in newspaper printing) are fairly innocuous, inks that are made for some other purposes still use petroleum and metals in their manufacture. (A good example is slick paper, where soy inks dry too slowly to be practical.) In addition, some paper itself has been bleached with chlorine, a particularly nasty player whose breakdown produces dangerous dioxins. 


Most importantly, there is little to no nutrition left in processed paper, and it won't add much—if any—fertilizing or disease-preventing power to the finished product. That's why I'm always yelling at allayouse to collect and shred massive amounts of fall leaves; shredded leaves make the finest disease-preventing, soil-enhancing, plant-feeding compost. If you have a compost pile where the predominant "brown materials" are paper instead of leaves, you are creating the equivalent of a heavily-processed artificial fast food for your plants. Compost made with shredded leaves is minimally processed, high quality slow food—and it's local too

https://www.gardensalive.com/product/using-cardboard-and-paper-wisely-in-the-compost-and-the-garden

*****
Laser printers use toner rather than ink, which usually contains plastics or waxes. The residual effects of toner in soil are unknown, but we do know that soil active with plenty of fungi and bacteria does an amazing job of breaking down some man-made chemicals. Still, if you want to grow the best possible food crops, avoid putting materials into the soil that are not natural, and bleached office paper, printed with wax or plastic-enhanced toners definitely falls into the unnatural category.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/use-office-paper-for-mulch-zb0z08zblon
 
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