Can You Recycle Newspaper? (And Are They Biodegradable?)

Information is key, and catching up with what’s going on in different facets of life is crucial to a person’s self-development. Though there are different ways to catch up with important information, one of the best and trusted means is through newspapers.

For decades, newspaper publications have continued to be a trusted source of news. This explains why it is easily found in almost every place one goes to. As good as this is, at the same time, it draws our attention to the possibility of these newspapers affecting the environment because of their use and disposal.

As an environmentalist, it is important to consider what effects these newspapers may have on the environment and how best to handle them. This and many more are what this post focuses on. In a nutshell, in the succeeding paragraphs, you will get to know whether your favorite newspapers are a potential harm to our environment. So, why not braze up as we launch you into full details?

Are Newspapers Recyclable?

Wondering whether newspapers are recyclable? Don’t wander too far; there’s a clue to the answer in the name. Newspapers are made of papers, and papers are generally believed to be recyclable. The only instance where you cannot recycle paper materials is where they have been coated with plastics or are contaminated. Luckily, newspapers are not always coated with plastic materials. So, yes, newspapers are recyclable.

However, this is not everything you need to know. Like we mentioned above, there are instances where your newspapers are contaminated, and you cannot recycle them.

The popular contaminants of newspapers include;

  • Food materials
  • Chemicals
  • Paints
  • Body fluid (blood)
  • Oil or grease
  • Coffee

Where any of these materials contaminate the newspapers you are planning to recycle, it might be impossible to recycle them. The reason for this is because when these newspapers are recycled, they are made into new materials. And when these materials contaminate them, it may be impossible to get them off. For instance, if your newspapers are contaminated by blood and are recycled to make other usable materials, there is a health risk posed to the public.

Due to this, it is advisable to watch out for the materials or fluid that can render your newspapers unrecyclable. If the newspapers have already been contaminated, simply dispose of them elsewhere; they don’t belong in the recycling bin.

Are Newspapers Made From Recycled Paper?

When you consider the ease of recycling papers, you may sometimes wonder what the recycled papers are used for. True, they are used for other paper material products, but do these other paper materials include newspapers? Well, let’s find out.

Though not all newspapers you come across, newspapers can, however, be made from recycled papers. You need to understand that what makes a newspaper different is just applying ink for printing news; the materials remain paper.

When papers are recycled, they are made into pulp before being transformed into a different kind of paper. Regarding newspapers, the pulp is transformed into newsprint. This is a kind of large cut paper where news stories are printed on.

The chances are that the newspapers you have lurking in the corner of your home or office were made from recycled papers. The good thing about papers is that they can be recycled multiple times until what’s left is only a piece of thin fibers. It is in this state that the recycled papers cannot be made into newspapers again.

In all, newspapers can be made from recycled papers multiple times. With this, you should be eager to drop your paper materials in the recycling bin, with the understanding that they are used to make something that would benefit you, like a newspaper.

Are Newspapers Biodegradable?

A discussion about how a product affects the environment is not complete if it does not touch on the possibility of that product breaking down. This is important to determine whether, after its use, there’s a continuous potential to cause harm.

The simple answer to this question is, Yes, you can put newspapers in the compost pile. They are biodegradable. Newspapers will help to add carbon to the compost pile. However, before you add newspapers to your compost, make sure you don’t put bundles. Instead, shred it first so that they get oxygen and turn it into rich, brown compost.

Recall that we mentioned earlier that they are made with paper, and paper materials unless coated with plastic, don’t take time before they biodegrade. Averagely, paper materials, depending on their thickness, will take between 2 and 10 weeks before they biodegrade. This is also the same for newspapers.

Nonetheless, some newspapers may take quite some time before they break down. The reason for this is that they contain high lignin composition. Lignin is a chemical substance that is found in plants’ cell walls. Where lignin is highly present in a paper material, it slows down the newspaper’s ability to decompose. This is why it may take longer than usual for newspapers containing high lignin to decompose.

Overall, the time it takes for these kinds of newspapers to biodegrade still does not pose unnecessary harm to the environment, which is a great thing. However, this does not end here. Though the papers used to make newspapers are easily biodegradable, we need to consider the ink used to print on the newspapers.

People have argued that ink does not just take time before it breaks down or vanishes from the environment; it also poses some negative effects on the environment. We will consider this better under the segment that examines whether newspapers are bad for the environment. For now, let’s consider whether you can compost your old newspapers.

Are Newspapers Compostable?

Since you have read above that newspapers biodegrade faster, you have probably made up your mind that they can be easily compostable. But is this the case?

Yes, newspapers can be compostable, but this does not apply to all newspapers. The difference here is not the paper’s inability to break down but the danger posed to your compost when it does. Let’s explain further.

Newspapers are not just purely paper materials; they also contain inks used to print on them. While there is nothing wrong with the papers, the ink is where the problem lies.

Some of the inks used to print on newspapers contain some chemicals that have high toxicity levels. Since composting involves breaking down these newspapers, there might be no way to escape the ink leaching to your compost bin.

Where the ink leaches to the rest of the compost, it will affect the garden plants you have decided to use the compost for.

But then, does this mean you shouldn’t compost newspapers? No, you can still compost newspapers that are not printed with these toxic inks. If you can still do this, how do you know the ones that have not been printed with toxic inks?

There are newspaper organizations that use organic inks to print on their newsprint. These organic inks emanate from natural sources. Some popular inks of this type are water-based or soy-based.

For these types of inks, you have nothing to be afraid of. You can compost the newspaper they have been used to print. The way to find out if your newspapers have been printed with eco-friendly inks is to put a call through to the publishing company. This looks like a lot of stress, but it is worth the stress in the end.

If your newspapers’ publication is relatively new, the chances are that they were printed with eco-friendly water-based and soy-based inks. But, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance; clear all doubts by putting a call through to that publishing company.

Lastly, if you have decided to compost your newspaper, you should shred them. You know newspapers are large, so it might be difficult for organisms to react to every part of them in a relatively short time. But if you shred them, you would have no problem with this.

Are Newspapers Bad For The Environment?

Whether or not newspapers are bad for the environment will inform many decisions such as the frequency of printing and disposal.

On this, it is possible to say that newspapers are bad for the environment. This is largely depending on the effects they have after their use. For instance, like we pointed out above, some newspapers contain chemicals that have high toxicity levels. When these newspapers are disposed of, the ink often leaches to the environment.

When the ink leaches to the environment has many direct and indirect consequences. First, the ink will reduce the nutrients of the soil and might stunt plants’ growth. Second, when absorbed into the ground, it can contaminate groundwater and pollute it. If it rains, the ink can mix with rainwater and get flooded to larger waterways, where it will pose a danger to aquatic animals.

This is not all about the woes of newspapers on the environment. If you consider that it takes felling of trees to make pulp for paper used to produce these newspapers, you will understand better. When trees are felled, the atmosphere is made unsafe for us, and the proximate surroundings become prone to floodings. All these are environmental problems which are caused indirectly by the production and use of newspapers.

Given all these problems for the environment, one might argue that newspapers should be done away with, especially in the light of technological advancement. Now, you can read all the news you want at the tap of a screen. So, why adopt the use of newspapers when they are causing this much problem to the environment?

3 Creative Ways to Reuse Old Newspapers

There are many things you can use your old newspapers for. If you don’t want to recycle or compost them, there are still ways to reuse them for your benefit. Let’s look at some of these ways.

1. Use As A BBQ Cleaner

After the party you are planning, the chances are that you will be faced with cleaning your BBQ. Well, you can use your old newspapers. The way to do this is simple.

After using your BBQ grill, let it cool for some time. While at this, you should water-soak some newspapers for a few seconds. Then you can cover the BBQ grills with these wet newspapers. Ensure you close the BBQ lid and wait for about an hour. After this, you can remove the newspapers and dust off the excess dirt.

2. Use As Lining

Do you have a place like a shelf top that requires some protection? You can use old newspapers to line the surface. This works great and saves you some money you would have used to buy those shelf liners.

3. Use As Fire Starters

Of course, papers are inflammable. This is why you can always adapt them to start a fire for your charcoal stove or during a bonfire. However, you have to be careful when using this to save yourself from fire disasters.

You can also use your old newspapers for

  • Book covers
  • Ripening of fruits
  • Oven cleaner
  • Window cleaning
  • Carpet underlining
  • Windscreen protection during snow


Newspapers are great, but if care is not taken, they may cause environmental harm to us. The good thing is that this can be avoidable if the newspapers are disposed of properly or upcycled. We can also avoid this harm by digitalizing news and avoiding the need to even print on paper.


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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.