In a rush? Here is a short guide on how to shred cardboard for compost: irrespective of the kind of cardboard you have, shredded cardboard is easy to be decomposed by microorganisms.
You can shred cardboard quickly by soaking it in water for days and then manually tear the cardboard into smaller pieces with your hands.
It is good to remove any plastic material, coated wax, and stickers that do usually come with cardboard before adding to your compost.
Read on for a detailed step by step guide on how to shred cardboard for compost and Worms.
What is Cardboard?
In order to make things easier and digestible, let us briefly explain what is cardboard and the different types of cardboard.
Cardboard can be described as a heavy-duty paper-based material, which is very thick and has greater and superior rigidity, durability, foldability, and resistivity.
Cardboard is made in different sizes and thicknesses. The thickness of cardboard ranges from a thick sheet of paper, which is known as paperboard to corrugated fiberboard.
Types of Cardboard
Cardboard can come in different forms and materials. The most common types of cardboard are:
Corrugated fiberboard: corrugated fiberboard cardboard is a type of cardboard that combined two paperboards and are joined together by another inner fluted corrugated cardboard.
This type of cardboard is usually employed or used in the production of boxes for storing cosmetics, foods, and for packaging.
Paperboard cardboard: paperboard can be described as paper-based cardboard that is not more than about 0.01 an inch thick. This type of cardboard is mostly used for making packaging and set-up boxes. It is also used in the making of corrugated fiberboard.
Others: these are materials that are sometimes called cardboard. These materials include scrap bookings, postcards, business cards, catalog covers, binder’s board, and aperture cards.
Raw Materials of Cardboard
Cardboard is usually made from woody plants such as fast-growing pine trees. Most industries usually use pine trees as base raw materials for making cardboard
The cardboard-producing companies can own thousands of acres of land for growing these types of trees. The trees are grown up to maturity and then harvested and replaced with other seedlings.
The harvested trees will be stripped after harvesting. The trunks are the only parts that will be moved to a pulp mill. A pulp mill is a milling machine where these woody materials can be turned into cardboard such as paperboard and corrugated fiberboard.
Other raw materials that are used in the production of cardboard is corn starch glue. This is a material that is used to bond the corrugated medium to the liner sheets.
This brief but complete explanation about cardboard can provide us with useful insights about whether cardboard is compostable or not.
Now, let us try to look at why cardboard should be composted or not.
Is Cardboard OK for Compost?
The short answer: cardboard is OK for compost. Cardboard can make a good addition to your compost. It is made from organic materials, which are biodegradable. And so the microorganisms that aid in the decomposition can break the cardboard down so easily.
The cardboard helps balance moisture in the compost. If your compost contains too much moisture, add cardboard to the compost. It will absorb all the moisture and stabilize the compost.
And this helps prevent the compost from releasing an unpleasant odor. Adding cardboard-like shredded corrugated and fluted fiberboard can increase air passage in the compost.
And air or oxygen is one of the main components that is required for proper composting. The oxygen is required by the decomposition microorganisms in order to carry out the microbial activities for decomposition.
However, some people usually avoid cardboard in compost because they think or believe that cardboard contains synthetic materials such as plastics and other synthetic chemicals.
But, in my opinion, this should not be a good reason that will make you avoid cardboard in your compost. This is because the plastics and other synthetic materials that are used to coat the cardboard are purposely used to insulate the cardboard and make it waterproof.
You can remove this coated-wax or plastics manually with your own hands.
There are some composting maintenance and preparation that you need to know before you can effectively add cardboard to a compost.
This composting preparation and maintenance include shredding and adding the cardboard to your compost.
Keep reading to learn how to shred cardboard for compost and what shredding materials you need to have to get the work done.
What can I Use to Shred Cardboard?
The common shredders that are usually employed in shredding cardboard include:
1. Paper shredder
2. Garden chipper
Paper shredder is one of the shredding equipment that is commonly used to break down cardboard papers into smaller pieces.
The machine is mainly designed to shred papers that are not too thick such as corrugated cardboard.
However, even the corrugated fiberboard cardboard is shredded with this kind of machine.
Despite this, regular shredding cardboard with a paper shredder can damage the machine. It will still yield results if you strip the corrugated cardboard into a reasonable size and shape.
The other shredder that is commonly used for shredding cardboard is the gardener chipper.
Garden chipper is the most effective shredder that will shred a large amount of cardboard within a short period of time and without putting much effort.
What you only need to do is to roll the cardboard into a log and then throw it into the chipper. Then, the chipper will quickly shred the cardboard into tiny pieces. You can see the process here.
How To Shred Cardboard For Compost and Worms
There is no single effective way, which you can use manually to turn paper-based products and compostable packaging cardboards into smaller pieces in order to add to your compost. This is whether you shred, cut or tear, the results will still be the same so far you do it manually with hands.
Another problem is that shredding cardboard fiberboard and paperboard manually by hands can sometimes be a serious problem to people with underlying medical conditions such as glaucoma, asthma, and bone-related diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome (median nerve compression).
There are easy and simple ways, which can be used to shred even large quantities of cardboard without putting much efforts and time.
However, you maybe need to invest a small token in buying some equipment. But, that is not necessary. It is only needed for better efficiency and time management.
Here is a step by step guide on how to shred cardboard for compost and worms:
Wet the cardboard prior to shredding: this is important if you think about it. Soaking the cardboard in water for some days like 2-3 can help soften the cardboard boxes or papers. And so what you will need to is to tear or cut the cardboard materials into tiny chunks or pieces.
However, this method has one disadvantage. The cardboard may absorb too much water and when you add the cardboard to your compost, the cardboard may introduce water to the compost. And this is not required. But, this is very uncommon.
Shred cardboard with garden Chipper: However, this method of shredding cardboard requires you to invest some money in buying a garden chipper. But, believe me, it is worth the investment.
This is because you do not need to stress yourself, you only need to roll the cardboard into a log and then throw it into the garden chipper. What is remained is to wait for your shredded cardboard and add it to your compost.
Additionally, you can use this chipper to use other garden and farm activities such as shredding straw, hay, and wood. Watch this video to see how it is done in practice.
Shred your cardboard with an electric paperboard shredder: this is also another way that can employ to shred cardboard for your compost.
But, you sometimes need to cut the big cardboard like those corrugated ones into strips. However, if you are shredding paper cardboard, you don’t need to put this effort. You only need to roll the paperboard and put it into the paper shredder.
However, this method is not very efficient as sometimes you may damage the paper shredder. This is especially common if you are shredding the cardboard regularly.
Employ the old method: can you remember the heap or pit compost? This is a type of composting method that traditional gardeners or farms used to compost different types of garden, farm, and household waste into compost.
You only need to dig a hole and bury anything compostable in the pit and then give it time to decompose on its own.
However, this method takes time like 1 or more years, which means you can only use this method if you are planning ahead. But, if you want to use your fertilizer on time, then this method is not the right choice for you.
Lasagna composting method: lasagna composting involves burying organic matters such as cardboard in a garden or farm soil. The cardboard will shred and decompose on its own and then release the nutrients to the soil and plants.
The only downside of this method, it takes time for the organic matter to make the nutrients available to the plants. However, when fully decomposed, organic matter can improve soil quality and plant growth.
Read also: Can You Compost Avocado: The Ultimate Guide To Avocado Composting
How to Compost shredded Cardboard
Now that all the cardboard materials are shredded, it will be easier for the worms and other decomposition microorganisms to decompose the cardboard.
Here is a step by step guide on how to add the shredded cardboard to your compost:
Add the shredded cardboard: make sure you add the shredded cardboard and other brown matters as a first layer in the compost bin or pile. Add about 3-4 inches of the shredded cardboard together with other brown compostable materials such as dried leaves and shredded newspapers.
Add the second layer: follow the first layer with a second layer of green compostable materials. Green compostable materials include banana peels, leafy green vegetables, fruit peels, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. Add like 3 inches of these organic matters on top of the shredded cardboard.
Add a pure garden soil: find a good area in your garden with good soil that has some earthworms. Add 1-2 inches of the soil on top of the second layer.
Alternate between brown and green organic matters: now, add the compost materials in alternate layers or forms until the compost bin or pile is full.
Like this: browns> greens> browns> greens> Browns
In this case, your browns are shredded cardboard boxes and other papers or dried leaves. While greens include grass clippings, banana peels, fruits peels, and so on
Turn the compost: when you finish adding the compostable materials or when the compost is full, cover it and give it time to decompose. Ensure that you turn the compost timely at 2-3 yes a week.
How long does it take for Cardboard to Decompose in a Garden?
The time it takes cardboard to decompose depends on many factors such as the size, quantity, and surface area of the cardboard.
Other important factors include moisture, heat, and oxygen availability in the compost. Of the cardboard, materials are well shredded and put into a compost bin together with kitchen waste such as coffee grounds, banana peels, and cabbage, the Compost can take like 2-6 months before all materials can be fully decomposed.
However, if the cardboard materials are added to the compost bin without following the right composting preparation and maintenance, your cardboard compost can take a year or more before all materials can become fully decomposed.
Most products at your favorite supermarket, shopping mall, and discount store are safely delivered in cardboard boxes to your doorstep or post office.
While many are displayed in the same cardboard boxes, which were produced so that they could be opened and used for this kind of purpose.
Looking at how cardboard is in the packaging and wrapping industries, a time will rich when the waste of cardboard may become a nuisance.
If that is the case, why not consider recycling the cardboard into something resourceful that will benefit both plants and soil.
In this article, I looked at the benefits of cardboard for composting plus how to shred cardboard for compost. I also looked at how to compost the shredded cardboard. Also, check out how to shred cardboard with lawn mower.
I hope this article will be helpful for you in understanding how to shred cardboard for compost. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.