Tuesday, December 01, 2009

using shredded paper for compost

shredded paper
compost tumbler  with shredded paper

I have a great new toy. A paper shredder! Its wonderful. I got the powerful model. Takes newspaper, cereal boxes, junk mail - almost anything made of paper. I'm tempted to add my bills too. I can't wait to see the beautiful compost this will make.

I'm mixing the paper shreds with my kitchen scraps (at least 2:1) in my big compost tumbler. My first batch was started a couple weeks ago and should be ready soon.

I love having a simple use for paper waste. I'm turning it into a valuable product without using extra energy or resources. I don't need to put it out at the curb to be picked up by a big truck brought to some far away facility and who knows what happens to it then.

I seems like it will be the perfect source of brown material for my compost tumbler.

(BTW: The tumbler was a free gift from World's Best Organic Compost Tumbler.)


Karen Anne said...

Me too.

Every so often I make a mistake, though, and shred something plastic or metal in it, like an old credit card, and then I can't use the whole container. Sigh.

Here's a tip someone on the web gave me when I had jammed mine and couldn't clear it. Pour a little water into the jam. Wait. It softens up enough to clear. You're supposed to oil it after that - right :-)

Karen Anne said...

p.s. Actually, it does use energy to run the shredder. I started out just shredding stuff that needs shredding. Then my guess is it is better to use the shredder on all paper waste, so I changed to that. I would feel less guilty if there were a hand crank shredder.

JP said...

forgive my side compost topic here, but this one has been causing my brain to itch. The basics state that green = nitrogen and brown = carbon. Green plant trimmings are nitrogen (but they turn brown as they decompose?) Green leaves - still carbon? And this brings me back to paper... I work in an art studio where we make paper pulp using abaca (banana leaves) and when it's overbeaten or old, I know that I could compost it - but goodness, what is it? Carbon, nitrogen, or the beautiful dance of never-you-mind-just-throw-it-in-already?

kathy said...

That's true about the shredder using energy. Someone recommended I just tear the paper. Seems like that would be too much effort.

Paper is always brown I think. I think green leaves are nitrogen on the tree, then carbon when they fall?

If its fresh, alive, or green or mushy - its nitrogen /green. Everything else is brown. Brown sources are fallen leaves, branches, hay, wood chips, saw dust, paper.

If I just pile all my garden waste on the compost pile, its a perfect mix. Dead plants, carrot tops, weeds, and stuff. It composts great on a pile.

In a tumbler, it needs to be smaller pieces. Chopped, chipped or shredded to tumble well. And the temptation to use just kitchen waste doesn't work. I suppose this is very green / nitrogen-rich stuff.

Jessica said...

Kathy, please let us know how well your tumbler works in winter vs. summer months. Will it take longer because it's cooler? I'm thinking about getting one.

Also, please post an update with a picture when the compost is ready! I'm curious to see how the shredded paper looks in several weeks.

Great idea to use paper as brown material in winter when leaves and other brown materials might not be as readily available!

Unknown said...

We've been adding all of our paper waste (shredded, electric shredder) to our compost for a year and LOVE it. Yes, it's brown in our estimation, too.

Green (as in sustainable,not as in nitrogen!) is a relative thing. Yes, the shredder uses fuel to make electricity. But hauling it to a paper recycler uses both fuel for the truck AND fuel for whatever the paper recycler is doing to it. And then the final product has to be trucked somewhere else AGAIN. The electric shredder at home wins in my mind! - Debbie

Unknown said...

Oh, and let me mention that I also use shredded paper as mulch in the garden, and it's particularly wonderful when hilling potatoes! You could wear an evening dress and hill potatoes without getting dirty, it's such a neat operation. Easy to pull aside, too, for harvest. And then you can work it into the bed or take it off to the compost pile afterwards. Wet it down well once it's been put into place and it is less likely to blow away. You'll also find that the local birds love it and will work shreds into their nests!

kathy said...

Feeding the shredder is a wonderfully mindless thing to do. I have to keep at it to use it for mulch! Great idea. I can imagine it blowing all over and sticking to everything though. Its already gathering in little piles out by my tumbler. No hose for wetting it down now.

Corrina said...

Sounds like a great plan, keep us posted on how it all works out! Sometimes I put our paper in the fire pit and then use the ashes in the garden too. I would love to make our trips to the transfer station less frequent - I am sure that my husband would agree! He's the lucky guy who gets "dump" duty!!!

Matt said...

This is a great idea. Are there any concerns about chemicals in the inks used on the papers?

kathy said...

Thanks Matt. I started a new post for this question. As far as my reading goes, newsprint and cardboard seem safe and are often used with no bad effects in gardens and compost. I do soil tests for heavy metals every couple years and will watch out for problems.

Karen Anne said...

I originally had a yard with trees, so I tossed plant/kitchen stuff in a big pile with dried leaves and it worked fine.

Now, no trees except a red cedar. So a year or so ago when the lawn had gotten very high, rather than smother it by leaving the clippings to fall into it as usual, I dumped them into the compost bin.

They turned to sludge. I left them there, having other things on my to do list, and eventually after some humongous rainstorms they turned into "dirt." I don't know what their composition was in terms of nutrients, but dirt is dirt, so it went on the garden, which did very well.

I have seen a lot of water really speed up composting in the past. Leaves used to fall into the water catchers under some container plantings, and if I didn't clean them out very promptly, presto "dirt."

Plain shredded paper blows out of my wire compost bin and makes a mess, so I am now careful to put heavier stuff on top of it.

Garden Dreamer said...

Hi Kathy,

I want to start composting and I live in a condo with a west facing deck and patio below it. So I want to have a composter either on the deck or patio.

Now where do you think the compost bin should be placed-on the deck or patio. The deck would receive the full blast of winter. Also do you have any suggestions where I could get a small container for composting. Thanks for your advice.

Anonymous said...

How did you get the composter for free?

The Shredding Alliance said...

I've just bought a great composter, we've got a reasonable sized garden and I wanted a way to re-use the grass, leaves and leftover food waste. I can't recommend it enough, it's great for the environment and reduced my waste.
I'm not sure where you're based Anon but in the UK local councils sometimes offer free composters, I hope this helps.

Traci searching for shredding options said...

Thanks for sharing this! I love this idea! It reminds me of how I use newspaper when mulching and it helps so that weeds can't get through... doubly whammy or help :)

Lisa researching shredding mail said...

What a great idea! I love this so much more than sending all that shredded paper to recycling.