Using paper products in your vegetable garden

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  • Using paper products in your vegetable garden and compost piles can be a sustainable way to recycle and add organic material to your soil. Here are some safe paper products you can use:



    Newspaper is safe to use in your vegetable garden and compost pile. It breaks down relatively quickly and adds carbon to the soil. Avoid using colored or glossy pages, as they may contain inks or chemicals that are not suitable for the garden.


    Cardboard is another good option for both the garden and compost pile. It’s biodegradable and adds carbon to the soil. Make sure to remove any tape, labels, or stickers before using it.

    Paper bags:

    Paper bags from grocery stores or other sources can be shredded and added to the compost pile. They break down relatively quickly and provide carbon to balance out nitrogen-rich materials.

    Shredded office paper:

    Shredded office paper can be added to compost piles. Avoid using paper with glossy coatings or colored ink. Plain white paper is preferable.

    Paper towels and napkins:

    Used paper towels and napkins can be composted if they are not too heavily soiled with oils or chemicals. Tear them into smaller pieces to help them break down more quickly.

    Egg cartons:

    Cardboard egg cartons can be torn into small pieces and added to compost piles. They provide carbon and help aerate the compost.

    Paper plates and cups:

    Plain paper plates and cups can be composted if they are free of any wax or plastic coatings. However, it’s best to avoid composting plates or cups with food residue on them.

    Remember to shred or tear larger paper items into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost pile. This will help them break down more quickly and efficiently. Additionally, avoid using paper products that have been treated with chemicals or dyes that may be harmful to your plants or the environment.

    While composting is an excellent way to recycle organic waste and enrich soil, not all paper products are suitable for compost bins or vegetable gardens. Here are some paper products that are not recommended for composting:

    Glossy or coated paper:

    Glossy paper, such as magazines, catalogs, or paper with a shiny coating, often contains chemicals or additives that may not break down well in compost and could potentially harm plants.

    Colored paper:

    Paper dyed with synthetic inks or colors may contain toxic substances that could be harmful to plants or soil organisms. It’s best to avoid composting colored paper.

    Paper with heavy ink coverage:

    Paper with dense ink coverage, such as newspapers with large images or advertisements, may contain inks that are not suitable for composting. While some newspaper ink is soy-based and safe for composting, others may contain heavy metals or toxic chemicals.

    Paper towels or tissues with synthetic fibers:

    Paper products made from synthetic fibers, such as some paper towels or tissues, may not break down efficiently in compost and could introduce non-biodegradable materials into the soil.


    Thermal paper receipts often contain chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A) or BPS (bisphenol S), which are not suitable for composting and could potentially leach into the soil.

    Shiny or metallic wrapping paper:

    Similar to glossy paper, shiny or metallic wrapping paper may contain chemicals or additives that are not suitable for composting and could harm plants or soil organisms.

    Paper with plastic coatings:

    Some paper products, such as coated paper plates or cups, may have a thin plastic coating to improve durability. These coatings are not compostable and should be avoided.

    Waxed paper:

    Waxed paper, commonly used for food wrapping or packaging, is coated with a thin layer of wax to make it moisture-resistant. This wax coating does not break down easily in compost and may contain additives that could be harmful to plants.

    Paper plates and cups with plastic coatings:

    Disposable paper plates and cups often have a thin plastic coating to prevent leakage. While the paper portion may be compostable, the plastic coating is not, so these products should be avoided in compost bins.

    Paper with adhesive labels or tapes:

    Paper products with adhesive labels, stickers, or tapes attached may not break down effectively in compost. The adhesive used in these labels or tapes may contain synthetic compounds that are not suitable for composting.

    Shredded office paper with toner ink:

    While plain office paper can be composted, shredded paper with toner ink from printers or photocopiers may contain toxic substances that are not suitable for composting. It’s best to avoid composting shredded paper with toner ink unless you are certain the ink is vegetable-based and safe for composting.

    Pizza boxes with grease or food residue:

    While cardboard is generally compostable, pizza boxes or other cardboard containers with heavy grease or food residue should be avoided in compost bins. The grease and food residues can attract pests and may not break down properly in compost.

    By avoiding these types of paper products in your compost bin or vegetable garden, you can help maintain a healthy composting environment and ensure the safety of your plants.

    It’s essential to stick to composting materials that are natural, unbleached, and free from additives or contaminants to ensure the health of your compost and the plants it nourishes. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and exclude questionable paper products from your compost bin or vegetable garden.

    Below are the main differences between cardboard and corrugated paper, which some people may not fully grasp.


    Corrugated paper and cardboard are related materials, but they have some differences in their structure and intended use:


    Corrugated paper is a type of cardboard that features a fluted layer between two flat sheets, providing strength and resilience, particularly for packaging and shipping purposes.


    Cardboard, on the other hand, refers to a thicker and denser material made of pressed layers of paper, suitable for various applications such as packaging, crafting, and construction.

    Corrugated Paper:

    • Structure: Corrugated paper is made up of a fluted sheet sandwiched between two flat sheets. The fluted sheet is typically made of paper or cardboard and provides strength and rigidity.
    • Strength: Corrugated paper is known for its strength and durability. The fluted layer adds structural integrity, making it suitable for packaging and shipping fragile items.
    • Lightweight: Despite its strength, corrugated paper is relatively lightweight, which makes it cost-effective for shipping purposes.
    • Common Uses: Corrugated paper is primarily used for packaging, shipping boxes, and creating cardboard boxes with varying levels of thickness and strength.


    • Structure: Cardboard is a thicker and stiffer material compared to corrugated paper. It typically consists of several layers of paper pressed together, resulting in a dense and sturdy material.
    • Rigidity: Cardboard is rigid and less flexible than corrugated paper. It provides excellent support and protection for items but may not have the same cushioning effect.
    • Thickness: Cardboard comes in various thicknesses, ranging from thin cardboard used for cereal boxes to thicker cardboard used for product packaging or crafting.
    • Common Uses: Cardboard has a wide range of applications, including packaging, product displays, crafting, and construction. It’s commonly used for items like cereal boxes, shoeboxes, and backing for notebooks.


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