How to Shred Cardboard for Compost


Cardboard is the leading packaging material in the United States. Although it is not a renewable resource because it is manufactured from wood products, it can be recycled many times without losing its original qualities. Whole cardboard packages can easily be converted into flakes that are an ideal way to add bulk and increase the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of soil.

How to Shred Cardboard for Compost

It’s cheap and easy to do at home as well as being environmentally friendly because you’re reusing materials that needn’t go to waste (and your local authority recycling center will welcome all the cardboard they can get!) When you shred cardboard, you create tiny pieces of pulp with a surface area greater than the whole package would have had before shredding. Today I will be discussing how to shred cardboard for compost. So let us get started.

Uses of Cardboard

Cardboard has multiple uses. It is a versatile material that serves several purposes in our day-to-day lives. For example, cardboard boxes are often used as packaging material for moving items from one place to another. You would also find cardboard boxes used as filing cabinets, storage containers, and tables around your office or home. Such applications of cardboard have resulted in the accumulation of large volumes of such stuff at various locations. So how does Shredded Cardboard Work?

As you know, when shredded into fine particles, it becomes straightforward to transport and handle due to its reduced size. Moreover, unlike other organic materials like leaves and grass clippings which take time to decompose back into the soil, cardboard can be put back into the soil almost immediately, shredding it.

Step-wise Guide on How to Shred Cardboard for Compost

Step 1:

Fill a plastic bag with all the corrugated cardboard that you wish to shred.  Place the bag on a table or some other flat surface.  Make sure that there is no space between bags if you have more than one filled.  Squeeze out any excess air and use a twist tie to seal the bag shut.

Step 2:

Start on one corner of the plastic bag with your sharpest blade. Usually, either an X-Acto Knife or utility knife works best for me.  Push down into it from above and begin slicing along the line where the two pieces of cardboard are fastened together (the glue will help guide your cutting).

X-acto Knife or Utility Knife 
Works Best for Cutting

Step 3:

Continue making slices along the line, down to the bottom. But, again, be sure not to cut your fingers!

Step 4:

Once you reach the other side of the corner, start slicing across that line down into a few pieces, depending on how fine you would like your shredded cardboard compost material, and then back up again.  Continue this process until there is nothing left but scraps from each slice.  Now all that remains are tiny flakes of cardboard dust which can be easily tossed into the compost pile or mixed in with dirt and spread onto garden beds.

In addition to what is stated above, other methods include using a shredder (either purchased at office supply stores or make one yourself ), repurposing an old food processor (which tends to work even better), or trying out a mini-grinder with your own hands.  No matter how you shred that cardboard, composting it is yet another way to reduce waste and make use of what would have otherwise been tossed into the trash.

Overall, there are some great benefits to adding shredded cardboard to a compost pile:

It helps break up tough garden beds or soil clumps by adding bulk. Increasing humidity and cooling temperatures in hot weather Bring nitrogen and carbon into perfect balance Encourage bacterial growth, which helps with plant growth, and overall health Reduces wind erosion over time through its fluffy structure.

Start here if you’re interested in reducing waste for the environment but don’t know where to begin!  Recycling isn’t the only way to protect the environment.  Composting is another valuable technique for low-costly and effective waste management. 

Precautions While Performing How to Shred Cardboard for Compost

  • Avoid breathing in the dust that is released.
Avoid Breathing in the Dust 
That Is Released
  • During shredding, wear a mask to prevent inhaling paper cuttings (called shavings) or tiny bits of cardboard that may be flung off the blades at high speed and could otherwise go airborne.
  • Do not wear cotton gloves while operating a high-speed shredder as they tend to get shredded along with the cardboard and other items thrown into the machine during shredding.
  • Wear thick leather gloves when handling an opened box of corrugated cardboard. It can have sharp corners or edges inside if it wasn’t packed properly before dispatch by the manufacturer/supplier or because it was damaged while being transported from the supplier to your premises/warehouse.
  • Use a separate airtight container to store the shredded cardboard if you cannot use it immediately after shredding. Otherwise, moisture from the air can seep into and worsen the condition of cardboard and make it brittle with age, reducing its quality in composting or soil improvement purposes besides increasing storage space requirement.
  • Do not store boxes of shredded cardboard inside shipping containers (e.g., big steel containers) that were used to transport them as they are often infested with tiny insects such as termites which would infest your stored boxes too and hence the final product after using such boxes for shredding in composting or soil enrichment purposes would be much less beneficial compared to what it could be if stored properly.

Disadvantages of Shredding Cardboard for Composting

The main disadvantage of using cardboard for composting purposes is that most plastics on cardboard are not biodegradable, which, over time, may make the resulting compost less nourishing for plant growth since plastics material do not convert like other materials such as sugars into nutrients required by plants during their natural aerobic decomposition stage.

As a result, fruits and vegetables will not benefit as much from compost made with cardboard because the resulting compost may lack nutrients initially contained within the plastics on cardboard.

However, since most plastics are a by-product of petroleum, it is important to consider that some people use plastic for composting purposes. Unfortunately, it also results in their waste being burned and released into the atmosphere anyway. This means they release more of these harmful pollutants than what would have been produced if they just disposed of their cardboard away instead of using it for composting.

Additionally, due to this fact, many environmentally conscious individuals choose not to burn waste that can contain beneficial materials such as carbon for improving soil quality (carbon sequestration) and instead use it as compost for growing plants.

Therefore, although the process of shredding cardboard and using it for composting may result in some undesirable outcomes such as degrading the quality of the resulting compost slightly over time, many people argue that its benefits (e.g., reducing waste by reusing more packaging materials) outweigh this disadvantage.

Amongst other things, using cardboard with plastics on it for composting also keep non-biodegradable plastic out of landfills which would otherwise release harmful pollutants into our environment if they were not recycled away.

Non-biodegradable Plastic  
Release Harmful Pollutants 
Into Our Environment

Advantages of Recycling Cardboard

Cardboard is made of paper, which is a natural material. Paper products should be part of your home recycling routine because they are not toxic or harmful to the environment.

Cardboard takes up little space in landfills and incinerators. In fact, it makes up about half of all residential waste streams by volume, but only 6% by weight. This means that if you recycle cardboard regularly, you will free up storage space in your apartment (since recycling one ton of cardboard can take up as much as two cubic yards of landfill space).  

Recycling has economic benefits: It reduces the demand for virgin materials; it adds value to recycled materials through processing and creates new products that can be sold. Recycling also creates jobs and saves energy.

·Using recycled paper does not require as much energy to manufacture as using virgin material.

Can you Shred the Cardboard in a Garbage Disposal?

No, however, you can make your own disposable plates and bowls out of it if you wish.  This makes cleanup much easier if you’re holding a picnic or other special get-together – toss them into the compost afterward! If you want to dispose of large amounts at once, I would buy some rolls from Staples or something similar and use those as they have fewer crinkles, so there is less space between the fibers to fill up with food waste.

If you do not have access to a shredder and need to dispose of large amounts of cardboard, the best way is to first soak it in water for 24 hours or so. That should dissolve a lot of the glue that holds them together. Then take an Exacto-knife or box cutter and cut these sections apart into smaller pieces before composting.

Products Manufactured Using Cardboard Compost

Paper, cardboard, and corrugated board are excellent raw materials for composting. A mature compost pile combines these products with water, air, and bacterial action to reduce them into a nutrient-rich soil amendment used in nurseries, orchards, gardens, or on lawns. Cardboard is not a substitute for yard waste or food scraps. Cardboard does not break down quickly and release nutrients into the soil like food scraps and other yard waste items. Food should never be placed in cardboard because it attracts pests, such as rodents, insects, cockroaches, and raccoons.

If you must dispose of food with your cardboard, wrap paper or foil around the item to prevent pests from using it as a food source.  Cardboard and corrugated board are recyclable. Most cities have plastic or paper recycling programs that can be used to recycle these materials as well. Recycling cardboard reduces the need for virgin wood pulp, which helps reduce waste products from being released into the environment needlessly.

Shredded Cardboard Packaging:  Great for Composting

Shredding cardboard boxes and other packaging makes them easier to compost. Cardboard is a great source of carbon-rich materials for your compost pile. Almost all paper products can be composted with a few exceptions, but not all cardboard. Here’s what you need to know about the various types of cardboard packaging out there to make sure it gets used well!

1 . The Different Types of Cardboard Boxes Out There: Non-recyclable or Recyclable?

In most cases, whether a box is recyclable depends on where you live (in which case, check out the recycling guide for your area here ).  For instance, if you’re in Long Island, New York , check the “Is it Recyclable?” box in the right column for more information. There are certainly exceptions, but remember a few of these basic rules, and you’ll be on your way to composting cardboard!

2. What Types of Cardboard Are Non-recyclable?

Not all cardboard is recyclable, so if you’re unsure where it goes, check out Earth911’s recycling database or call your city or town’s recycling hotline (usually found on their website). Also, not all cardboard is recyclable, including Carbon paper: Almost all carbon paper will have traces of lead, making them hazardous waste. So don’t try to recycle this as there aren’t any facilities that recycle or dispose of it in an environmentally safe way.

Carbon Board  Is Recyclable

3. What Types of Cardboard Are Recyclable?

The recyclable cardboard types include White or colored cardboard boxes (depending on location), Cereal boxes (if unassembled and flaps have been removed), Frozen food containers if they don’t contain any metal, plastic, or rubber. Labeling/ plastered packaging for foods is okay. Clean pizza boxes with no “wax” coating aren’t recyclable.  Check out this post for more information. Waxed cardboard like those from milk cartons and juice containers are not recyclable, sorry!

Can Pizza Boxes Be Composted?

Plastics, paper, and cardboard are accepted for composting. However, compost materials should be clean and dry before they are added to the compost pile. For example, paper items that have wet or greasy food on them cannot be composted with your compost pile because these items might attract rodents and pests.

You can shred your own cardboard boxes by using a hand crank paper shredder. You can also take unwanted bills, junk mail, cereal boxes (cut along the side seams), etc., to businesses like Staples or FedEx Office, commonly referred to as “shredding services.” These businesses will fold the material into ¼-inch strips, so it is easier to store in containers until you’re ready to use it as mulch or add it to your compost pile.


I hope this article has been beneficial for learning how to shred cardboard for compost. Thank you and have a nice day!

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