How to Use Cardboard and Newspaper in Your Compost Pile

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In Brief: How to Use Cardboard and Newspaper in Your Compost Pile

Cardboard and newspapers can be valuable for any gardener when it comes to providing nutrients and minerals to their plants. Cardboard and newspaper can be used to balance out the compost ingredients you use. Knowing how to correctly use cardboard and newspaper in your compost pile is important, though, because there is a right and wrong way to do it.

How to Use Cardboard and Newspaper in Your Compost Pile

Composting is perhaps the best way to reuse waste in an environmentally-friendly way, reducing our carbon footprint.

Composting is a natural decomposition of organic materials, including cardboard and newspapers.

Paper-based products are very useful when added to composts for different reasons.

Firstly, they soak up excess water, which otherwise would prevent the pile from getting compact.

Then, since they are rich in carbon, cardboard and newspapers help to balance out the brown/green proportions of the compost pile.

In the composting community, there is a continuous debate regarding what type of paper products can be composted.

On the one hand, there are people arguing that all paper-based products, including printed, glossy, or waxed, can be composted.

If you would like to learn about whether newspaper can be used in your compost pile, check out this video:


On the other hand, there are some debating that these products should not be placed in the compost heap.

Given the fact that, nowadays, manufacturers replaced chemicals and harmful substances with eco-friendly options, most state that using any type of cardboard or newspaper is safe for use.

The first step is to inspect the paper-based products you have. Often, cardboard boxes come with cellophane, silicone, acrylic sticky tape, or labels.

These need to be removed before using them, otherwise, the compost will be contaminated with microplastics, toxic chemicals, and greenhouse gases.

If you want to speed up the process, it is recommended to shred the newspapers and cardboard boxes into small pieces before you add them to the pile.

This will also allow for more oxygen coming in, an important factor for the success of your compost pile.

Source: The Field

Shredding or cutting can be difficult for people who suffer from medical conditions, such as arthritis.

In this case, it is recommended to soak the cardboard in water for a few days, which will soften it and make it easier to shred, cut, or tear.

There is one main, easiest way when it comes to how to use cardboard and newspaper in your compost pile. The first one is based on shredding and spreading.

You can start the pile by adding soaked and/or cut, torn, or shredded cardboard and newspapers in a 4-inch layer. Mix these with other high-carbon materials, such as ash, straw, or dead leaves.

Sprinkle water on this first layer to make the materials slightly damp. This needs to be followed by a 4-inch layer of nitrogen-rich materials, such as veggie or fruit scraps, grass clippings, and others.

Then, follow up with more alternating layers until you finish off with a layer of nitrogen-rich materials. The size of the heap should be considerable if you want to speed up composting.

Finally, add a 2-inch layer of compost or soil to the compost.

Every week, aerate the heap using a pitchfork to turn over the pile. Make sure you sprinkle water on it when it gets dry.


All in all, cardboard and newspaper can be used along with other composting materials to create a heap.

For quick results, it is recommended to shred the cardboard, which can be soaked in water if this becomes troublesome.