Uncovering the Truth: Can Cardboard Safely Be Composted?

Can You Put Cardboard in Compost? Exploring the Benefits and Limitations


In recent years, composting has gained significant popularity as a sustainable way to manage organic waste. However, there is often confusion surrounding what can and cannot be composted. One commonly asked question is whether cardboard can be added to a compost pile. In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits and limitations of composting cardboard.

The Benefits of Composting Cardboard

Composting cardboard offers several advantages that make it an attractive option for eco-conscious individuals:

1. Diverting Waste from Landfills

Cardboard typically takes up a considerable amount of space in landfills due to its bulky nature. By adding it to your compost pile instead, you contribute to reducing landfill waste while creating nutrient-rich soil amendments.

2. Carbon-Rich Material

Cardboard is primarily composed of carbon, making it an ideal “brown” or high-carbon material for achieving the right balance in your compost bin or heap. Balancing carbon-rich materials with nitrogen-rich ones enhances microbial activity during decomposition.

3. Improving Soil Structure and Water Retention

When properly broken down, cardboard adds valuable organic matter to your compost that improves soil structure by enhancing drainage capabilities and water retention properties—ultimately leading to healthier plants.

The Limitations of Composting Cardboard

While there are numerous benefits associated with putting cardboard in the compost pile, certain limitations need consideration:

1. Types of Cardboard Matter:

Not all types of cardboard are suitable for composting due to various factors such as additives or coatings applied during production processes.

  • Glossy or Coated Cardboards: These cardboards often contain non-compostable materials such as plastics or waxes. It’s best to avoid composting these types of cardboard.
  • Cereal Boxes and Cardboard Packaging: These are generally safe for composting if they don’t have any shiny coatings or plastic windows.

2. Preparing the Cardboard Properly:

To facilitate efficient decomposition, it is crucial to prepare the cardboard adequately before adding it to your compost pile.

  • Tearing into Smaller Pieces: Breaking down large pieces of cardboard into smaller bits improves its overall breakdown process, ensuring faster decomposition and preventing clumping in the pile.
  • Saturating with Water: Moistening dry cardboard helps accelerate the decomposition process by creating a favorable environment for beneficial microbes.

The Composting Process

Now that we’ve explored both the benefits and limitations of composting cardboard let’s outline a step-by-step process for effectively incorporating it into your existing composting routine:

1. Collect Appropriate Cardboard Materials

Ensure you have collected appropriate types of cardboard, such as plain brown packaging boxes or cereal boxes without any non-compostable elements like plastic.

2. Prepare the Cardboard

Tear or cut the collected cardboard into smaller pieces. Soak them briefly in water to enhance their moisture content before introducing them to your compost heap.

3. Integrate Into Your Compost Pile

Add layers of shredded or torn moistened cardboard between existing organic green material (like kitchen scraps) and other brown components (such as dried leaves). Aim for an equal balance between carbon-rich “browns” and nitrogen-rich “greens” for optimal composting.

4. Maintain Proper Moisture and Turning

Regularly monitor the moisture levels in your compost pile to ensure it remains damp, similar to a wrung-out sponge. Additionally, turn the pile occasionally with a pitchfork or shovel to aerate it, aiding decomposition.


In conclusion, composting cardboard is an excellent way to divert waste from landfills while enriching your garden soil. By understanding the types of cardboard suitable for composting and properly preparing them, you can effectively incorporate this material into your compost pile. Remember to always prioritize sustainable practices when managing organic waste!