Can You Compost Cardboard? A Comprehensive Guide

Composting is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of organic waste and create nutrient-rich compost for your garden. While many people are aware of composting kitchen scraps and yard waste, there is often confusion about whether cardboard can be composted. In this article, we will explore the topic of composting cardboard and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

What is composting?

Composting is a natural process of decomposition where organic materials, such as food scraps, yard trimmings, and paper products, break down into nutrient-rich humus. This humus can then be used to enrich the soil and support healthy plant growth.

Benefits of composting

Composting offers several benefits:

  • Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills
  • Improves soil structure, moisture retention, and nutrient content
  • Supports healthier plants and increased biodiversity

Can You Compost Cardboard?

Types of cardboard that can be composted

Uncoated, plain cardboard

Uncoated, plain cardboard without any glossy or plastic coatings is ideal for composting. This includes cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls, and paper towel tubes.

Preparing cardboard for composting

Remove non-compostable materials

Before composting cardboard, it is important to remove any non-compostable materials, such as tape, stickers, or plastic inserts.

Shredding cardboard

To speed up the decomposition process, it is recommended to shred the cardboard into smaller pieces. This increases the surface area and promotes faster breakdown.

Composting Cardboard at Home

Shredding cardboard

To shred cardboard, you can use a shredder or simply tear it into small pieces by hand. The goal is to create smaller bits that will decompose more quickly and evenly.

Mixing cardboard with other compostable materials

For successful composting, it’s important to create a balanced mix of organic materials. Layer shredded cardboard with other compostable items, such as kitchen scraps, yard waste, and leaves.

This mixture will provide a good balance of carbon (from the cardboard) and nitrogen (from the other organic materials), which is essential for effective composting.

Managing moisture and turning the compost

Maintaining the right moisture level is crucial for composting cardboard. The compost pile should be moist but not soggy. If the pile becomes too dry, add water to increase the moisture content.

Turning the compost regularly helps to aerate it and speeds up the decomposition process. This can be done with a pitchfork or shovel.

Industrial Composting of Cardboard

Industrial composting processes

In addition to composting cardboard at home, cardboard can also be composted on an industrial scale. Industrial composting facilities use specialized processes and techniques to efficiently break down large quantities of cardboard.

Benefits of Composting Cardboard

Composting cardboard offers several benefits:

  • Reduces waste and landfill usage
  • Produces nutrient-rich compost that can enhance soil fertility and plant growth

Composting Cardboard vs. Recycling

While recycling cardboard is an important step in reducing waste, there are some differences between composting and recycling cardboard.

Composting allows the cardboard to break down naturally and contribute to the creation of nutrient-rich compost, while recycling focuses on reusing the materials to create new products.


In conclusion, cardboard can indeed be composted. By following the proper preparation techniques and incorporating cardboard into your compost pile, you can contribute to reducing waste, improving soil health, and creating nutrient-rich compost for your garden.


  1. Can glossy or coated cardboard be composted?
    • No, glossy or coated cardboard should not be composted. These types of cardboard contain chemicals and coatings that may not break down during the composting process and can potentially contaminate the compost. It is best to stick to uncoated, plain cardboard for composting.
  2. How long does it take for cardboard to compost?
    • The time it takes for cardboard to compost depends on various factors such as the size of the cardboard pieces, the moisture content, and the overall composting conditions. Generally, shredded cardboard can take anywhere from several months to a year to fully decompose and turn into nutrient-rich compost.
  3. Can I compost pizza boxes?
    • It depends on the condition of the pizza box. If the box is clean and free of any food residues or grease stains, it can be composted. However, if the box is heavily soiled with food waste or covered in grease, it is best to remove any contaminated parts and dispose of them in the regular trash. The clean portions of the box can then be composted.
  4. What are some alternatives to composting cardboard?
    • If composting cardboard is not a viable option for you, there are alternative ways to recycle or repurpose cardboard. You can recycle cardboard by placing it in the appropriate recycling bin or take it to a local recycling facility. Additionally, cardboard can be repurposed for various DIY projects, such as making storage boxes, organizers, or even mulch for weed control in the garden.
  5. Can I use compost made from cardboard on edible plants?
    • Yes, compost made from cardboard can be used on edible plants. However, it is important to ensure that the compost has fully decomposed and matured before using it in your vegetable garden. This helps to avoid any potential contamination and allows the compost to provide beneficial nutrients to your plants. Conduct a visual and smell test to ensure that the compost is dark, crumbly, and has an earthy aroma before using it on edible plants.