How to Make a Compost Bin Liner Out of Newspaper

If you compost your food scraps, you may want a bin liner for your collection pail. Perhaps the ick factor prevents you from getting started with composting. Or maybe you’d prefer to clean out the bucket’s interior less often. You can buy compostable plastic bin liners or you can make liners out of folded newspaper. (Go here for composting indoors or out.)

Benefits of a newspaper bin liner

  • Paper adds brown matter to the compost pile. You need both green matter (food scraps, plant trimmings) and brown matter (dry leaves, organic hay, paper) for a compost bin to function properly.
  • Paper breaks down quickly. Paper breaks down faster than compostable plastic bags.
  • No research necessary. Many compostable bags break down “where facilities exist.” Not all will decompose completely in a backyard bin. And “biodegradable plastic” simply means the material will break down into smaller pieces of plastic. California banned this form of greenwashed plastic labeling back in 2011. Eliminate the guesswork and line your bin with newspaper.
  • Save water. Your lined bin will stay cleaner longer than if you directly fill it with food scraps. Washing it less frequently conserves water. (Go here for more water-saving tips.)
  • Newspaper bin liners are fun to make. Think of them as beginners origami.
  • Newspaper bin liners cost essentially nothing. If you don’t read a physical paper, a friend or family member who does would likely be happy to give you theirs. You won’t need many. One issue of the New York Times will keep your bucket lined for weeks.

Are newspaper inks safe for the soil?

Ink in the old days newspaper ink contained toxins. Most modern newspapers print their pages with environmentally friendlier soy ink. In the end, whether you compost newspaper or not comes down to personal choice. (Go here for more information on the safety of composting newspaper.)

Will my city’s curbside food scraps program accept a paper liner?

If you collect food scraps for curbside pickup, ask your city’s waste management department whether you can put paper bags into your bin. Some cities may require compostable plastic bags. Many allow or even prefer paper.

What do I do if I need a larger compost bin liner?

Unless you have a huge family or run a commercial kitchen, you may not need a large bag. If your bin overflows with wasted food, go here for some simple tips to help you reduce it (and save money!). Cut the amount of food waste going into your compost bucket and a newspaper bin liner will likely suffice.

Composting is crucial—but a last resort. Rather than sending food scraps and food waste to landfill, where they emit methane, composting diverts this organic material back to the soil, where the finished black gold sequesters planet-heating emissions.

In an ideal world, we would eat all the food we buy and compost the inedible parts—the pits, stems and peels for example. But food waste happens. When it does, that wasted food belongs in a compost (or in chickens’ tummies if you have chickens…).

One more composting benefit: Dry trash

One of the most common questions I hear during my talks is “How do I line my garbage can without a plastic bag?”

Because you’ve diverted your food scraps to a compost system of some sort, you’ll not only have a dry trash bin, that bin will contain less material. These small newspaper bin liner bags may do the job. (Depending on your setup, you may be able to tip your unlined bin directly into your curbside bins or dumpster.)

How to dump the liner and food scraps into the compost bin

When your compost bin liner is full, tip your bin, liner and all, onto the compost heap. Do not lift the soggy bag out to transfer it—it will fall apart (unless it contains only dry orange peels and apple stems). Even filled compostable plastic bags that sit in a bin will begin to break down.

And now! How to make a newspaper bin liner

I think the pictures below explain well how to fold these simple bags.

Hands hold open a compost bin liner made out of folded newspaper
The folded bag is ready for action!
A compost bin is lined with a newspaper bin liner.  The bag is filled with inedible food scraps.
Food scraps fill a newspaper liner placed inside a compost bin
Five compost bin liners made out of folded newspaper sit on a wooden table
Five newspaper bin liners

If you have leftover newspaper, you could do papier-mâché with either wheat paste or rice glue 🙂


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