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How to Make Compost Out of Newspaper

Ordinary newspaper can be a successful component of rich, useful garden compost. Newsprint is composed primarily of plant fiber, and modern newspaper inks are made from a safe soybean oil base. There are two ways to turn your newspapers into compost: in a compost bin, or using a red worms in a vermicomposter.

Compost Bins

Shred newspaper into narrow strips by hand, or by using a paper shredder.

Spread a 10-inch thick layer of shredded newspaper on the bottom of the compost bin. Layer 2 inches of green compost material over the newspaper. Spread one-half inch of dirt or manure over the green compost material. Water the layers thoroughly.

Repeat with additional layers, watering between rounds, until the compost bin is full. Water the compost pile frequently.

Turn the compost pile with a spading fork when it has diminished to about half its original height. Water the pile after turning it. Turn and water the pile every third day after the initial turning.

Inspect the decomposing compost at each turning to assess whether the newspapers have broken down completely. Use the newspaper compost only after all pieces of paper have fully decomposed.

Vermicomposting

Shred newspaper by hand or by using paper shredder. Place shredded newspaper in the bucket and add water. Remove the shredded paper one handful at a time, wringing it out until it is damp but not dripping.

Fill bottom tray of vermicomposter with damp shredded newspaper. Add 1 lb. of red wiggler worms to the newspaper bedding. Feed the worms one-half lb. of food scraps per day.

When the worms have consumed the food scraps, fill the second stacking tray with shredded newspaper, and add one-half lb. of food scraps daily. Repeat with additional trays.

Continue adding food scraps daily for three to six months. Separate the worms and any remaining visible pieces of newsprint for return to the bin, and use the newspaper vermicompost for all garden purposes.

Tip

Newspapers can take slightly longer to decompose than other carbon matter used in composting such as dead leaves or wood shavings. Be sure to keep the pile wet and turn it frequently.

Warning

Glossy advertising flyers may have clay coatings which are not beneficial for composting, so they should be removed from newspapers before use.

About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.