Newspaper mulching Organic practice?

garotina(6a/b)December 4, 2005

Is newspaper an organic method and safe to mulch a vegetable garden? Please comment


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squeeze(z8 BC)

I vote for it! it's a good compost addition, basicly wood pulp w/ soy based inks nowadays, and the best part is IT WORKS GREAT!!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2005 at 10:59PM
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Absolutely, far better than using plastic, nylon, rubber, or other non renewable products.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 7:19AM
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Thank you. -Some of the "organic fellow gardeners" claim newspapers soy based ink is not from organic sources GMO? perhaps, and so they have discouraged some of the others fellow gardenrs to not mulch with newspapers. I myself still practice newspapers and salt marsh, and have for the last 10 -12 years... Again comments and feedbacks are welcome... What level of organic is this practice?
And what is consider extreme organic or Organic period?

Thank you


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 9:48AM
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Garotina, you're right to wonder about the safety of the inks in newspapers. I often hear that it is safe for composting, etc because newspapers use soy-based inks. However I can't find anything to substantiate this, only claims made on forums like this.

Often, incorrect information becomes accepted as fact because of constant repeating. I'd like to see something definitive to put my mind at ease.

Although the following is 5 years old and may have changed, the Ohio Division of Recycling says:

"As of 2000, only 25 percent of the nationÂs 50,000 commercial printers use soy ink. 90 percent of newspapers use soy ink for color printing, but not black because black soy ink is significantly more expensive."

Anyone have more current, factual info?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 10:25AM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

curmudge - citations I've seen say that over 95% of the newspapers printed in the US currently use soy inks - in addition, newspapers use colors primarily in adverts and some pictures, so I'd guess 3/4 of their ink needs are black - in addition soy inks require less material to obtain the same density of print, and save money in many ways so the slightly higher cost is offset, not to mention the fact that the US govt has mandated that printing for the govt should be w/ soy inks

Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute:
"Newsprint inks can contain a high vegetable oil content due to the absorbency of newspaper. Because the ink dries solely by absorption, it is possible to substitute all of the petroleum oil with vegetable oil, and 100% soy formulations are available. For color newsprinting, soy inks provide brighter colors, better color control, and less rub-off. Soy inks are less likely to build up on the plate, have less tendency to skin over, and greater stability. They permit greater latitude in inkwater balance, allowing more flexibility in press settings, and provide greater coverage per pound of ink. Although black soy-based ink can cost up to 30% more than conventional ink, the higher cost may be offset by greater coverage and reduced newsprint spoilage due to its smoother flow."

I'd bet that before long, only soy inks will be used for all litho printing as constant improvements and cost benefits are ongoing, and as large a portion of the "production" population is environmentally concerned as we are

as to the GMO thing:
- if all the printing ink used in the US were soy based, it would use something less than 2% of the soybean production
- the processing that the beans get to render their oil to ink so 'denatures' it that it's nearly indistinguishable from any other vegetable oil material
- the quantity of soy material on a sheet covered w/ printing is miniscule, especially in comparison to the volume of VOC's emitted into the world's atmosphere in the production and use of petro based inks

Carmen - newspaper mulching is organic period, haven't heard of any "levels" of organic practice - gardening involves petro-chemical additions to your soil and food or it doesn't


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 12:41PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

As with motor oil, which you could say is an 'organic' product, it's the additives that cause concern. I use newspapers only in paths, not around food crops, and even then feel qualms about it.

From the linked article, which says soy ink is overall much kinder to the environment than petroleum based inks:

"While there have been many claims of the ecological benefits to be gained, ink made with soybean oil contain waxes, pigments, and other additives. This makes it no easier to dispose of a soy oil-based Ink than a petro-based ink, printed or non-printed. This requires that the same considerations be taken for disposal in a landfill or incineration as petro-based inks would need."

Here is a link that might be useful: soy ink

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 3:35PM
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led_zep_rules(5 WI)

Earlier this year I went to the web site of the largest local paper, looking for a phone number or email address where I could contact them to find out about their ink. Lo and behold, they had a big deal about how they only print with soy ink, black and colored. So I don't know what the additives are, but I have been told that for where I live the additives to the soy are less of a concern than the pollution in the air, so not to worry about it. (Due to being zone 5 and WI other gardenwebbers could tell I live in SE WI which is near a huge coal power plant and near Milwaukee, a fairly large city.) So the ink in the newspaper in my garden is really the least of my worries about being organic. I also use plain brown cardboard with very little printing on it.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 2:14AM
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Since well over 75 percent of the soybeans grown in the USA are gmo soybeans it is highly likely that the soya based inks are made from gmo sobeans. We have been eating gmo foods, without knowing it, for years. Organic purists will not use anything that might contaminate their soil even though pollutants from everywhere drift in on the wind. I find no problem with using newspaper, even knowing that the ink is made from gmo soybeans, because the little bit of contamination that is there is no more, in my estimation, than what comes in on the wind.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 6:56AM
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Thank you!
Indeed, I believe we all have made valid points. -Brwvo!
I will still continue to mulch with Newspapers, as I have. One of the newspapers that were called by organic gardeners here in MA, confirmed that Indeed, soy ink is used and that mulching was not clear to them to be recomended... Sounded as if it was their legal department talking! -However, I also practice vermicomposting, and I know for a fact that the worms in our bins are fed 85 - 95 organic veggie scraps and cofee with green tea grounds.. and so ,I can very well relate to have the level % of organic castings if you will :)! -Now I can only say or think that for those that feed vermicomposting bins non organic veggie scraps, that the end result is LESS organic than our end result? I think that this relates to the newspapers practice somewhat.

Comments are welcome :)!

Thank you All :)!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 11:23AM
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Use newspapers and corrugated cardboard as mulch for several years and have seen nor felt no problems. I agree with those who say it is far better than black plastic, etc. Certainly better than the free mulch I brought home from the county recycling center. Believe I also brought home a number of weeds heretofore unknown to my property.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rural Life 2.0

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 1:53PM
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cats39(z5 Upstate NY)

Hi All!

Long before I ever heard of the word organic I used newspapers to keep earthworms and other fishing worms alive. They seemed to have thrived in that moist medium.

Yes, they were also feed orange, apple, and banana peels, with some leaves thrown in for good measure. And they also seemed to relish coffee grounds.

It was so long ago I'll have to guess. Say maybe from about 1944-45 and beyond to the present day of 2005. Today they call it Vermicomposting.

Just as a side note if you don't mind we captured most of these worms after rainstorms in the glow that came from street lamps. I'll never forget the hit I made when I was able to afford buying a Carbide Lamp since flashlight batteries were a no-no even if you could afford one as I child, as I believe batteries were rationed.

I also loved the smell of liquid DDT that we sprayed from hand pumped canisters on something called Victory Gardens that was had by everyone in the neighborhood.

I think it's great that lead (as well as DDT) are no longer used in the papers "I use" for what I have been practicing for 60 years.

I also use sections of newspaper for lasagna gardening and in my 4X8 composter I hand shread newspaper and place in between leaves, hay and other yard waste, again a place where worms thrive.

Since this newspaper thread has come up as it occasionally does I'd like to send a post on something I've been doing for the past 5 or 6 years using newspaper and 5 gallon pails in a manner that I use for kitchen waste.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 3:11PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Out there somewhere there is a USDA site that says that the printers unions forced the removal of any harmful substances from newspapers printed in the USA. I feel this is a more likely scenario than any of the stale arguments about soy and petroleum and colors made from heavy metals.

I would use newspaper, myself.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 4:37PM
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I called our local paper to find out what type of ink they used. The colored pages are done with soy based ink and the black print is done with petroleum based ink. I really don't want to add petroleum to my soil. Our newspaper sells end roles of blank newspaper very cheap. That seems like a safer and fairly cheap way to mulch.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Does anyone have concerns about the chemicals that may be present in the paper its self? Just wondering. It seems like there is a higher potential threat in the paper because of its volume compared to the small amount of ink.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 7:30AM
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