Like most people, I used to spend much time cursing the senders of junk mail under my breath as I journey back from my mailbox. That is, until I realized the value of junk mail as a gardener.
Junk mail is primarily paper. Paper is a carbon, and carbon my friend is a key ingredient to good compost! Paper fulfills the same role as dead brown leaves in a compost pile. In my opinion and estimation, there is no more earth-friendly way of using waste paper than composting it. Even paper recycling uses immense amounts of energy to transport the paper to recycling centers and onward to those who recycle the materials into new products.
So why not use it to produce rich, fertile compost that will benefit your garden with essential nutrients?
We have both traditional compost and also vermicompost (worm composting). The worms make pretty quick work of the shredded paper and cardboard!
Some people try to make a case for this not being a good idea usually because of antiquated understanding of the ingredients of the ink used in printing. It is highly unlikely that you’ll find heavy metals in inks used to print your junk mail. Had this been 1950, I can understand the alarm, but today, most inks are soy-based and completely safe for composting!
You don’t have to stop at junk mail! We also shred and compost our cereal, snack bar, pasta boxes etc. Pretty much anything that can go through the shredder is headed toward the compost piles. Yes, the shredding does use electricity, and therefore fossil fuels, but the amount of energy used to shred household junk mail is far, far less than the energy required to recycle it otherwise.
We tend not to shred “waxy”types of papers since they would seem to take longer to break down. Further, we rip the plastic out of all the windo envelopes prior to shredding them.
So stop cursing your mailbox and start making wise use of your junkmail as compost. Your gardens will thank you!