Ask G

Ask G: Are newspapers suitable to turn into mulch?

Old newspapers and junk mail can be recycled, but you might be able to use them in the garden too

I'm thinking of buying a paper shredder so I can turn my newspapers, household mail and home office waste into mulch for my ten organic citrus trees. Do you know if there is any evidence that the inks used in newspaper, advertising mail or laser printers is toxic to trees if used this way?


Credit: morgueFile

- Advertisement -

Black and white newspapers are generally printed with innocuous carbon-based inks, so you're pretty safe using those in your garden.

Coloured inks and toner can contain all manner of chemical ingredients, including cadmium, and are better recycled through your council collections.

Your council may collect newspapers, magazines and junk mail through its household collection program, provided your house is within their set collection area. Check their local services online at

Having said that, I'd seriously question buying a new separate product to perform such a limited task, unless you were already buying a paper shredder for work purposes anyway.

Remember that every product we buy represents an investment of the energy, water and material resources needed to make it. So it's often a better choice for the environment to avoid buying a product altogether.

For your citrus trees, I'd recommend laying down sheets of newspaper to keep down competing grass or weeds and mulching with lucerne or pea straw instead of shredded paper. These mulches will provide some extra nutrition-citrus are hungry trees! Just keep the mulch away from the trunk to avoid collar rot.

More information