Mr. Green Week: Can You Compost Shredded Paper?
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're featuring our appropriately attired advice guru, Mr. Green. This week, we'll treat you to a few treasured columns from the archives and some rare behind-the-scenes videos — if you're lucky.
Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.
Hey Mr. Green,
I shred credit-card statements and other papers containing personal financial information. I usually have a disproportionate amount of green material for my compost, so I'd love to add this shredded paper to the pile. Is such paper safe for composting? What about shredded newsprint?
--Marianne in New York, New York
Except for colored and glossy paper, which might contain some toxic heavy metals, newsprint and other paper is safe to use as mulch or in compost. In fact, one study revealed that paper had less toxic material than straw or grass!
The only problem with paper is that if you put too much of it in your heap, you could get an unfavorable carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, since paper is high in carbon (one reason it burns). But unless your finances are of a Bernie Madoffian level of complexity, your financial documents will probably not disturb the ratio! The ideal ratio is 25 carbon to 1 nitrogen. Too much carbon slows down the process. If that happens, you can always add high-nitrogen material such as grass, alfalfa, or manure. As you no doubt have already discovered, well-chopped material and frequent turning is the key to healthy, happy compost.
Finally, since you are a composter, let me share a fine poem about composting. I recommend affixing a copy of it to your compost box for inspiration.
BONUS VIDEO! See Mr. Green's compost bin.