How to Compost Books


Paper is a brown ingredient in your compost bin, which means it provides nitrogen. Along with carbon, water and air, nitrogen is an important ingredient in your compost bin. If your old books are in no condition to be donated to charity and you do not have a paper recycling program in your neighborhood, composting your old books is a wonderful way to recycle. If you have too many green ingredients and have no brown ingredients to put into your compost pile, composting your old books is the perfect way to balance your compost bin, helping it compost more efficiently.

Step 1

Remove the cover as well as the glue binding from the pages of your book.

Step 2

Shred the pages by hand or using a paper shredder.

Step 3

Cut up cardboard covers that do not use glossy paper. Cut the cardboard up as small as possible for faster composting. Discard any glossy cover materials.

Step 4

Mix the shredded paper and cut cover in with your compost, or place the shredded paper on top of your compost bin to help control odor.

Tips and Warnings

  • Many inks today are vegetable based but still may contain some petroleum. Avoid using glossy paper---which has a higher content of toxins---in your compost bin. The United States banned lead printing plates more than 25 years ago. Books older than this or books from other countries may still contain lead.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper shredder
  • Scissors


  • United States Composting Council: Safety in Composting Paper
  • Grist: Umbra on Composting Paper
  • Environmental Protection Agency: The Benefits of Including Paper in Composting
Keywords: composting paper, composting books, paper in the compost bin

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and essays. McCarty's work has been published in Hip Mama magazine.