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Compost - Shredded Office Paper Okay?

Have my barrel composter all set up and ready to go... now I just need some materials to get started.

Veggie matter isn't a problem... I'll add scraps from each nights dinner. I do need some dry base material though right?

I know that newspaper will work but walking down the hall at work the other day I noticed an office with bags and bags of shredded documents. Appeared to all be on regular office paper but would obviously have come out of a printer, fax, or copy machine.

Would this be okay? Or is newspaper the only way to go?
 
Let's set aside first the issue of absconding with bags and bags of confidential documents that have been shredded. To be sure, it's a great resource, and hard to pass up, but you're going to run afoul of some privacy law or other. I don't think that paper is up for grabs. Frowner

Let's say you did get to take some of those bags home. My answer would be:

It depends on how much you use, and your tolerance for what is organic and not-organic.

Office paper isn't the most environmentally friendly paper to begin with, having been bleached to death and back again; the dioxins may or may not have been washed out of the slurry before it was pressed into paper. Dioxins do break down over time, however, so it's your call.

Office paper has also been run through office printers, and the toner in those printers is not likely soy-based, but metal dust for laser printers. You are also likely to get some contamination of thermal-reactive fax paper (remember that filmy, curly stuff?), and there is very little to recommend about it, compost-wise. In small doses, this paper isn't going to drag the quality of your compost down too much. Again: your call.

You're looking at large volumes, however, and that is where the balance starts to tip a little more away from "good idea". As well, when that paper gets wet, it clumps up. My kids put our shredded paper in water and glue to make paper clay. As well, if you use it in the summer, you may have problems with cellulose-seeking vespids, or anything that chomps on wood, leaf-fuzz, or wicker to make its ominous turnip-shaped nest in that tree right outside your house. My experience with using lots of shredded paper (even newsprint) in the compost was one of venom and night-time commando raids to get that nest OUT of the composter.

I do use household amounts of shredded paper in both my curbside "green" collection bin to soak up the juicy bits of oily stuff and chicken bones that don't go in my back yard bin, and I put shredded paper in one of my worm bins as an absorbent layer every time I add more vegetable scraps to the ranch. But we're talking household shredding: low volume.

All that to say: No, don't try to use your office's shredded paper. Newsprint is more consistent.

Be sure to turn your paper-fed composter frequently, though, or the paper will mat and clump up, and you won't get good rot. I'd really look for an alternative to newspaper, too: are you in a place where you can scrounge for leaves and straw and even wood chips?
 
[hr]I have three seasons: GROW, *SEW*, and SEED CATALOG!
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What is used to turn the brown wood pulp into that white paper ("bleach") is washed out of the paper and any dioxins that might have been there will be in the wash water not the paper. The major problem with office paper is the ink from copier toner and printers, most of that is metal based (if soya based the ink would tend to smear). Since many offices contract with companies to remove these now shredded documents, for confidentiality reasons, you need to find out if this is done at yours.
 

The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees.

West central Michigan along the lakeshore.

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