The Eco-Friendly Solution: Can Pencil Shavings Be Composted?

Can Pencil Shavings Be Composted?

When it comes to composting, many people wonder what can and cannot be added to their compost pile. One common question that often arises is whether pencil shavings can be composted. In this article, we will explore the feasibility of composting pencil shavings and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

The Basics of Composting

Before delving into the specifics of whether pencil shavings can be composted, let’s first understand the basics of composting. Composting is a natural process where organic matter decomposes over time, resulting in nutrient-rich soil known as humus. This process mimics nature’s way of recycling organic waste and helps reduce landfill waste while enriching your garden or soil.

Understanding Pencil Shavings

Pencil shavings are typically made from wood and may also contain small amounts of graphite or colored pigments used in pencils. Since they are primarily composed of wood, which is an organic material, pencil shavings have the potential to break down during the decomposition process – making them suitable for composting.

Factors to Consider:

Type of Wood Used in Pencils

The type of wood used in pencils plays a significant role in determining whether their shavings can be safely added to your compost pile. Most pencils on the market today use cedarwood due to its smooth texture and aromatic properties; however, some cheaper alternatives may utilize lower-quality woods such as basswood or poplar.


  • Durable and rot-resistant.
  • Contains natural oils that repel pests.
  • Breaks down slowly in compost, releasing nutrients gradually.

Basswood or Poplar:

  • More prone to decay and pest infestation compared to cedarwood.
  • May break down quickly in compost, but may attract pests due to lower durability.

Pencil Coatings and Additives

Apart from the wood used, it is essential to consider any coatings or additives present on the pencil shavings. Some pencils feature coatings that prevent splintering or enhance grip. These coatings often contain synthetic materials that might not break down effectively during the composting process.

Tips for Composting Pencil Shavings:

Moderation is Key

While pencil shavings can be added to your compost pile, it’s important not to overwhelm it with excessive amounts. Aim for a balanced mix of various organic waste types rather than relying solely on pencil shavings.

Mix with Other Materials

To ensure proper decomposition and avoid clumping, mix your pencil shavings with other green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials. Examples of suitable additions include fruit scraps, vegetable peels, grass clippings, dried leaves, or shredded newspaper.

Avoid Coated Pencils if Possible

If you have the choice between coated pencils and uncoated ones when sharpening them for composting purposes, opt for the uncoated variety. This reduces the risk of introducing non-biodegradable substances into your compost pile.

The Verdict: Yes!

With all factors considered – such as wood type and potential additives – pencil shavings can indeed be composted. However, it is crucial to exercise moderation and mix them adequately with other organic materials to ensure proper decomposition and avoid any unwanted issues.

Benefits of Composting Pencil Shavings:

  • Reduces waste going to landfills.
  • Enriches soil with valuable nutrients.
  • Promotes a healthy, sustainable gardening practice.

So the next time you sharpen your pencils, don’t hesitate to add those shavings into your compost pile. It’s a small step towards reducing waste and nurturing our environment while reaping the benefits of nutrient-rich humus for your garden or plants.

Happy composting!