Can Paper With Writing on It Be Composted?

Composting is an excellent way to get rid of yard waste and other biodegradable materials. While many materials are compostable, this doesn’t mean they are okay to compost. So, what about paper? 

You should not compost paper with writing on it unless there is very little ink or the ink is non-toxic. Otherwise, you allow the harmful chemicals found in the ink to spread through the compost and negatively affect your compost pile. 

In this article, I’ll discuss what kind of paper and ink you can compost, and how to ensure that what you’re writing with can be composted. 

What Kind of Paper With Ink Can You Compost?

You can compost paper with any ink that is soy-based, non-toxic, or environmentally friendly. You should avoid composting paper with ink that is harmful for the environment as it can ruin your compost pile and the soil it fertilizes after the process is complete. 

The main issue with composting paper with ink on it is that it can contain many different toxins that are harmful to the compost pile. This is tricky because not every type of ink is toxic. You should, therefore, handle this on a case-by-case basis. 

Let’s look at the various ink types and other materials you may use for printing or writing, and determine which are okay to compost:

Printer Ink

We’ve all received unnecessary handouts from work at some point, and sometimes our duties force us to print things we don’t need to keep long-term. Because this can seem like such a waste of resources, you may wonder if you can recycle those unnecessary printed papers. 

The good news is that most printer ink is environmentally friendly. This means that it is also compostable and will not harm the environment. 

However, this depends on the primary ingredient used to create it. Most printer ink contains soybean oil, linseed oil, or petroleum distillate as a main ingredient.

Both soybean and linseed oil are environmentally friendly. So, if your printer ink features either of these as the main ingredient, feel free to add it to your pile. The problem lies with printer inks that contain petroleum distillate because this is a hazardous material. While it is safe enough for humans to be around a small amount of it, the material is harmful for the environment, especially in large quantities. 

The best action to determine if it is safe to compost your printer ink is to check the ingredient list. Some printer companies like HP have stated that their ink is environmentally friendly. So, consider this when choosing ink for your printer to ensure you can compost your paper. 

Ink Pens

Ink pens can consist of different ingredients depending on the manufacturer. It is important to know the type of ink you are working with before determining whether your paper with ink writing is safe for composting. 

Many pens that we use every day are oil-based. This means that they have dye resting in oil for even distribution on the page when writing. One common type of pen that uses oil-based ink is the ballpoint pen. This ink is recognizable because it is thick compared to some other inks, and this helps to limit the amount of ink that is released when you use it. 

Oil-based ink is not the best for the environment, but it won’t actively harm it. If you are an avid note-taker with oil-based ink pens, you can compost these sheets without much risk to the environment or your compost pile. 

Other pens use petroleum-based ink. As discussed above, petroleum is not environmentally friendly, so you should avoid using these pens if you want to compost the paper you write on. While oil and petroleum-based pens are both not good for the environment, petroleum is a lot worse for your compost pile. 

Soy-based ink is the best possible option for composting paper with writing without worrying about the environmental impact. Though these pens are not as common as the above pens, soy-based ink is fully renewable and highly recommended for use with composting paper. So, get a soy-based ink pen to be on the safe side, but be aware that oil-based ink is also acceptable. 


Like pen ink, whether marker ink is okay to compost depends entirely on its ingredients. Because manufacturers tend to market markers toward children, it should be easier to determine if they are safe to compost. Most marker manufacturers will indicate on the label if they are non-toxic and, if they are, you can compost them. 

You might also wonder about marker companies (such as Sharpie) that do not market to kids. Their main target audience is adult crafters, and they tend to skip the specific labeling that applies to child-friendly materials. Unfortunately, paper with marker writing or drawings on it should not be composted. 

Marker ink is toxic and harmful for the environment, and you should consider other, greener options when choosing markers. 

Many marker manufacturers have begun to move toward a greener formula for their products. This is a great opportunity for people who often use markers for projects and other reasons. By keeping non-toxic markers in your home and encouraging your children to use them, you can ensure that you can safely compost old notes and drawings that you want to get rid of. 


Pencils are useful for kids in school, bosses who change their minds often, and those of us prone to writing mistakes. It is, therefore, no surprise that they are commonly found in homes and offices. 

Pencils contain graphite which is not biodegradable, and this may lead you to believe that you shouldn’t compost it. However, this is not the cause because graphite is beneficial to soil as it is an excellent source of iron. Of course, you should avoid composting an entire pencil as it will take too long to break down during the composting process. 

Similarly, you can compost pencil shavings as well, making it ideal if you use traditional pencils often. 

Is It Safe to Compost Newspaper?

While you need to be careful when composting your at-home printouts, newspapers are safe to compost. Traditional newspapers consist of soy-based ink that you can compost without having to worry. However, if the newspaper has a glossy finish it can be unsafe. 

With all the special requirements we discussed above, you may be wondering why you can compost newspapers so easily. This is because of the ink used in newspapers. As mentioned above, soy-based ink is environmentally-friendly, and you can safely compost newspapers after you finish reading them. 

The only time you should not compost a newspaper is if it features a glossy finish, similar to those you see in magazines. Paging through a glossy magazine can be a luxurious experience, but the glossy finish contains metals that produce the color-popping glossy finish we all know. 

One reason that some people hesitate to compost newspaper is that it takes longer to break down in a compost pile than other materials. While this is not a reason to avoid composting newspaper, it is a reason to hesitate. The decomposition process can take longer than expected, and you should take special care to ensure that it fully composts. 

How To Ensure That What You’re Writing With Can Be Composted

The best way to ensure what you are writing with is compostable is to check the ingredients and be sure to only purchase non-toxic and naturally-based writing utensils. 

As discussed above, the compostability of your ink depends entirely on the ingredients. If the pens or markers you have already used are unsuitable for composting, then seek out pens and markers with compost-friendly ink. 

Companies will continue to create items as long as the demand is there. If you want to see more eco-friendly ink options, make sure you purchase available eco-friendly options for your home. 

Final Thoughts

Like any other materials, you must be careful when composting paper with writing on it. Some inks are fine for composting, while others can contaminate your pile, destroying any chance that it can be beneficial for your soil. 

The most important part of determining what is okay to compost is to look at the ingredients. Avoid composting anything with petroleum and choose only non-toxic options. Anything naturally-based like soy and some other oils works well for composting. So, always read the materials that make up the ink before deciding.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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