How to Compost Phone Books


Phone books are a source of composting material for your garden. Worries about the effects of inks and bleaching substance in the printing process have been resolved after studies done by the US Composting Council have shown the soil contamination to be negligible. Although many people will choose to take the phone book to a recycling center, composting the book is another environmentally sound practice. Practically speaking, you need to follow a few steps to get the thick book to break down into compost.

Step 1

Find out how many pages your shredder can do at a time and shred the book into small pieces. If you don't have a shredder, you can ball up each page and throw it into a pile for composting. The whole reason for the shredding is to increase the amount of air that can get into the composting mass.

Step 2

Wet the balled-up or shredded phone book pages in a bucket so that they are like a wet sponge and full of water. This will encourage worms and microbes to eat them. Once it has absorbed enough water, you can add it to your backyard compost pile.

Step 3

Cover the layer of wet paper with a layer of grass clippings or other plant material to balance the high carbon content, and continue layering. The paper is considered a high carbonaceous material. Healthy compost has a ratio of 30:1 carbon to nitrogen, so a layer of green nitrogenous material like grass clippings or kitchen waste will balance out the paper.

Step 4

Feed the pile until it is at least 3 feet high by 3 feet wide. At this point it will generate enough heat to break down the pieces of paper. After about six weeks, most of the pile will have degraded into unrecognizable particles, and after another six weeks, you will probably have some nice dark compost at the bottom of the pile.

Things You'll Need

  • Shredder
  • Water


  • US Composting Council: Safety in Composting Paper
  • Hamilton County Government: Composting Helpful Hints
Keywords: phone book, paper composting, shredding a phone book

About this Author

Based in Maryland, Heidi Braley, currently writes for local and online media outlets. Some of Braley's articles from the last 10 years are in the "Oley Newsletter," "Connections Magazine," GardenGuides and Braley's college life included Penn State University and Villanova University with her passions centered in nutrition and botany.