How to Compost Paper


Since paper is actually processed wood pulp, it is an organic material and composts quite as readily as other plant materials. The secret to successfully composting paper, lies in making the pieces as small as possible before adding them to the pile, and in knowing which papers should be avoided altogether. Never compost glossy papers and stay clear of papers with colored inks unless they are environmentally safe materials, such as soy inks.

Step 1

Place a layer of sticks or some old straw in a 3 to 4 inch layer on a patch of bare ground. A bare-earth base allows beneficial organisms and worms in the soil to get into the pile and help break it down, according to Earth Easy.

Step 2

Add a few inches of grass clippings, shredded leaves or other organic material on top of the layer of sticks or straw.

Step 3

Shred papers (avoiding glossy and colored papers) with a paper shredder or scissors in small strips or tear into small pieces. You can use cardboard as well by tearing it into small bits.

Step 4

Add the shredded paper to the pile in a shallow (3- or 4-inch layer).

Step 5

Continue building the pile by alternating leaves, fresh green plant clippings, weeds, kitchen refuse, and shredded paper in layers.

Step 6

Wet down the whole pile until it is thoroughly damp, but not sodden.

Step 7

Cover with an old tarp or plastic sheet (whatever is handy and reasonably waterproof), and allow it to sit undisturbed for a few weeks, watering it occasionally to keep it slightly damp.

Step 8

Use a pitchfork or similar implement to turn the pile every couple of weeks to let air in and aid the decomposition process.

Things You'll Need

  • Shredder (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Small sticks or straw
  • Organic material (leaves, grass, kitchen waste, etc.)
  • Paper
  • Old tarp or plastic sheet
  • Hose
  • Pitchfork or similar tool


  • Earth Easy: Composting

Who Can Help

  • Compost Instructions: Composting Information
  • Florida's Online Composting Center: Can I Compost It?
Keywords: composting paper, proper paper composting, compost paper methods, making paper compost

About this Author

Deborah Stephenson is a freelance writer and artist, who brings over 25 years of both professional and life experience to her writings. Stephenson features a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is an anthropologist & naturalist, and has published a field guide on Michigan's flora & fauna as well as numerous political and environmental articles.