No shredded office paper?

5 February 2015  |  HOTBIN Composting

I Don’t Have Access to Shredded Office Paper

Food and garden waste both have a high water content and when hot composting it’s really important to balance the moisture levels in the HOTBIN.

Some moisture will evaporate as steam, however the remainder will be removed by adding materials that can absorb the excess moisture. The important factor to consider is that they will need to breakdown easily into compost without restricting the airflow through the bin as this will help to keep the thermophilic bacteria hot composting.

Not all types of paper are equal in their absorption and decaying properties, consequently we recommend certain paper types over others.


Why Certain Papers? What’s In Paper?

In its rawest form before becoming paper, pulp contains cellulose and lignin (derived from the latin ‘lignum’ meaning wood). Lignin is a woody material that once provided strength to the walls of a plant.

Processing Paper from Pulp and Removing Lignin

When the paper making processes remove this woody lignin they leave mostly cellulose fibres. The thermophilic bacteria in the HOTBIN find cellulose much easier (faster) to breakdown than lignin. As a result it is better to add moisture absorbing paper based materials in your HOTBIN that are mostly free of lignin as these will break down easily and will not be visible in your final compost.


What We Recommend

The best types of paper to add are those with the highest cellulose content.

Composting Considerations for Cellulose and Lignin Levels in Paper


OK, So What Can I Add? I Don’t Have Much Office Paper!

Don’t worry, our definition of “Office Paper” does not mean that you need to buy reams of brand new paper. Most people have access to far more usable paper around the house than they realise; if you do however have access to office shredding’s then that’s even better.

Recycling more types of paper at home adds to the circle of reducing the amount of domestic waste produced and diverts it from landfill. It can also assist with the complete destruction of those personal documents and receipts you have shredded.


What You CAN Add Exclusions
Highest in Cellulose (Easiest to Breakdown)

Office paper, print outs, photocopies, old emails, printed documents, old handwritten paperwork and letters

Remove staples and tape


Invoices/delivery notes, white and brown envelopes Remove windows unless biodegradable
Brown corrugated cardboard delivery boxes Remove sticky tape, document wallets and staples. Do not pre-soak.
Notebook pages, note paper, drawing paper and diary pages Remove any glue/wire binding
Telephone directory pages Remove binding
Old shopping lists, receipts and paper bags Remove staples
Unwanted instruction booklets (flat pack etc) Remove staples and bindings
Unwanted Medicine instructions  
Post-it notes Remove adhesive part unless biodegradable
Chocolate box separators Don't let the chocolates go to waste
More Lignin Content (Slower to Decompose)

Newspaper / Cereal Packets and Printed card

Egg cartons

See advice below
Other Compostable Items
Coffee filters and easy to remove food can labels Avoid adding anything wet and with excessive amounts of glue
Wrapping Paper and Greeting cards Remove non-paper additives and check for recyclability
Glossy Leaflets and Magazines Remove staples and bindings - see expanded information below


A Note on Glossy Leaflets and Magazines:  Glossy leaflets, magazines, boxes with wax coatings and items with heavy print will compost but will take longer to do so like newspaper. Many sites advise not adding heavily printed items due to the inks used, however these are not toxic with vegetable inks the preferred choice and toxic ones banned.

If you are really struggling:  Always start with those high cellulose materials and add other papers such as leaflets and newspaper but be aware that you might find it in your final compost. If adding newspaper, roughly tear sheets into smaller pieces  – find a good mixture of materials if you are really struggling.


DL envelopes can provide the HOTBIN with shredded paperWhat About Tissue and Kitchen Paper?

Whilst tissue paper is just very thin bits of “office paper” (high in cellulose), this problem is that it is very thin with little weight, so you would need to use a lot more of it, kitchen and paper towels for example would need to be relatively dry to be added. Unless you have an abundance of it we do not recommend adding tissue paper for this purpose.


Do I Need a Shredder?

A lot of households today have a home shredder, usually for personal document destruction however it is not a necessity for the HOTBIN.  Instead you can tear things up; we recommend to less than 4 cm in as many odd shapes as you like – this speeds up breakdown.

single wall corrugated cardboardMost good quality shredders will also be able to shred single wall cardboard boxes (pictured). We advise not shredding  heavy duty cardboard boxes unless you are confident they will pass easily through your machine, instead you can tear these up.

If you do have a shredder, cross cut shredding is more of a bonus as it can be sprinkled in with waste – think of it as seasoning!


One Last Tip

If it’s easier, consider adding shredded paper into your food caddy indoors whilst you fill it, this way when you add it all into the HOTBIN you just need to give it a quick stir. We recommend 2-3 handfuls of shredded paper for each 5l food caddy but with wetter waste you may need to experiment with quantities.

Remember, it’s easier to fix a dry bin than a wet one.