Easy Sustainability Answers

Can I compost my paper shopping bags?

Adriene Hill Aug 9, 2010

Easy Answer: Yes.

I know. We’ve talked a lot about shopping bags recently. But, before we move on, my editor wanted to know if he could compost his paper shopping bags. He wondered if that would be a reason to pick paper instead of plastic?

Composting paper shopping bags should be just fine, according to the EPA. A spokeswoman for the agency told me that ink on the bags isn’t normally a concern: “Most inks, such as those used in newspapers, are now soy-based inks. However, if you are not certain about the type of ink on your paper and you are going to be using a large quantity of paper for composting, it is probably wise to use paper with the least amount of ink as possible.”

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when composting paper:

  1. 1) Shred the paper so it will decompose more quickly

  2. 2) Remember that carbon needs nitrogen to decompose:”think four parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Good sources of nitrogen are green grass trimmings, plant trimmings, and fruit and vegetable scraps.”

For more: check out the EPA’s guide to composting.

Photo credit: Flickr account of urbanwild.

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