Is a Newspaper Biodegradable?

In this brief report we have discussed the topic “ is newspaper biodegradable?” by answering the most relevant question related to biodegradability of newspapers. We will also be discussing the challenges related to the biodegradation of newspapers and its effects on our environment.

On a final note, the role of the internet in the twenty-first century in reducing paper waste will also be discussed.

Is a newspaper biodegradable?

Anything made from paper is biodegradable unless it is coated with plastic. Most of the newspapers are made from wood pulp which are naturally occurring raw material and decompose by the microorganisms. Depending on the thickness, these newspapers can degrade within 2 to 10 weeks.

However, the composition of newspapers matters greatly. Companies sometimes use non-biodegradable material to make newspapers more durable during transport and shipping. Moreover the ink used to print in newspapers is non-biodegradable which can even leach through soil and get to the underground water. 

Most of the paper based material is made from cellulose and lignin. The naturally occurring microbes can release the enzymes cellulase and lacasses that can effectively degrade newspapers within a few weeks. The biodegradation process is enhanced by the solubility of newspaper in water. 

However, studies have also found that the lignin component in newspapers is not easily biodegradable and higher the lignin component greater is the biodegradation time taken. Water disintegrates newspapers making it easier for microbial activity. When these papers are thrown it is better to shred them as this will fasten the degradation process.

What are the challenges in biodegradation of newspapers?

Though newspaper is biodegradable, some of the components that are added during the making of newspapers are not biodegradable. One such component is ink that is used to print newspapers. Depending on the ink composition it takes months for newsprints to degrade whereas plain paper without any prints will take only 16 days to degrade.

Further studies have also shown that newspapers made from recycled paper degrade faster than that made directly from wood pulp. Though the rate and time for biodegradation changes with the material composition, newspapers are far better than the plastic based materials.

It is a good thing to know that newspapers are not coated or laminated with plastics. Newspapers are for serious readers who are looking for the content rather than its appearances. They are also not categorized as a serious pollutant to our environment like plastics. Moreover people find several uses of newspapers after they have done with the daily reading.

Why are newspapers a threat to our environment?

There are many aspects of newspapers that make it harmless for our environment. Biodegradability is one such factor that makes newspapers more eco-friendly material. Moreover, the newspapers are easily recyclable and reused for packaging or covering purposes.

However, like every coin has a flip side, newspapers are also not promoting a healthy environment. Imagine the number of trees that are cut to make wood pulp in the paper industry. This is the major drawback of the newspaper industry as cutting down trees for any purpose is a threat to our environment. 

Tons of trees have to be cut down to serve the millions of news readers all around the world. This is on top of the number of trees that are cut to make furniture and paper. A negative impact always follows with this type of deforestation.

Moving ahead, we can see the use of ink for printing newspapers. Early days these inks were made from toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. These inks do not biodegrade and emit toxic substances that can leach out to the underground water from the landfill.

Owing to its toxic nature, the current newspaper industry is switching to soya oil which being a natural material has its own advantages. Soya ink provides a better alternative to the traditional ink as it is a nonvolatile organic material that does not emit toxic components.

Another cause of concern related to the paper making process for the newspapers is the use of bleaching agents. Most paper industries use chlorine which does not cause air and water pollution but also no other alternative has been found for its replacement. Researchers have found that use of hydrogen peroxide is a best alternative, but to what extent is this used by the newspaper industry is still a question.

How can we get more from reuse of newspapers?

When we see bundles of old newspapers in our backyard, we get tons of creative ideas such as making lanterns, gift wraps, and different crafts. But its most advantageous role is in composting. A pile of newspapers is a good compost for your garden. 

When properly shredded these newspapers along with shredded leaves makes a good compost.It should also be remembered that dumping a bunch of newspaper is not good for compost as the stacked pile of newspaper blocks oxygen and compost need oxygen for the activity of many microbes. 

How is digitization changing for a better tomorrow?

With digital knocking on everybody’s life, the era of newspapers is approaching a deadend. The use of newspapers is now limited to the old generation where it has become a habit for them to read the morning newspaper over a cup of tea. With more people choosing online news they are updated much faster than from the once or twice a day newspapers. 

Newspapers are dying due to the growth of inter-based things. We can know everything at any time just from the click of a button. The young generation is mostly dependent on the internet as they can choose from different options of websites at any time of the day.


In this brief discussion we have answered the topic :is a newspaper biodegradable?” with more emphasis on the challenges of its biodegradability and how it is affecting our environment. We have further discussed the role of the internet era for a safe and healthy environment.

Frequently asked question (FAQs): Is a newspaper biodegradable?

Are newspapers recyclable?

All types of papers are recyclable provided it is not coated with plastic or contaminated with food. Luckily, newspapers do not fall in either of these categories and do not deal with recyclability issues. 

Some of the recycled papers are used to make the newspaper itself, thus, reducing the number of trees that are cut down. 

How long does it take a newspaper to biodegrade?

Newspapers are biocompatible materials that degrade within a few weeks. Most of the newspapers are made from cellulose based material and are easily degraded by the microbes due to the enzyme cellulase secreted by these microbes. Studies have found that newspapers made from recycled papers degrade even faster than made directly from wood pulp.

Does all paper biodegrade?

Yes, papers are biodegradable as these are made from the natural fiber cellulose present in wood pulp. However, the time for biodegradation depends on the composition of the papers. Decorative papers that use glitters and metallic coating do not degrade for a long time due to the presence of plastic material. Similar is the case with plastic coated or laminated papers.

Are newspapers environmentally friendly?

Newspapers, to some extent, are environment friendly. Firstly, it does not use plastic coating like the magazine papers, nor do they use metallic glitter to improve its appearances. This makes it easy for biodegradability. Second, its great for composting and promotes the growth of plants in your garden. Newspaper can be made from recycled papers and its biodegradability rate is faster than that made from wood pulp.

However, its making is consuming a lot of trees which is proving harmful to our environment. Some places still depend on lead and cadmium based inks which are very toxic in nature and are hazardous to the environment.

Is newspaper compost?

Newspapers are a good compost. The shredded newspapers provide the necessary mulch for the growth of plants. However, it should not be used alone as the stacked piles of papers prevent diffusion of oxygen and prevent the composting process. Instead, mixing paper with green composting material will onset the composting process.

Is paper or digital better for the environment?

Use of paper causes destruction of numerous trees which is harming life on earth. Not only is paper making energy consuming, it uses chemicals that are emitting toxic elements in air and water. The twenty-first century is the age of the digital system and with many IOTs people are drawn towards its applications. 

Younger generation prefers to read online and get all the latest news at the click of a button. However, manufacturing laptops and electronic devices always leaves a carbon footprint. Every year people tend to buy the latest product in the market creating piles of electronic items in their backyards.

Does going paperless really save trees?

Going paperless has many advantages. It help to reduce CO2 emission and prevent the reduction in virgin forest that is used to make paper. Evenmore, going paperless saves the company a lot of money but introducing automated business processes through scanning and E-signatures.


Sudhanshu Joshi, Ujjawal Sharma, Dr. Garima Goswami, 2014, Bio-Plastic From Waste Newspaper, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY (IJERT) ETRASCT – 2014 (Volume 2 – Issue 03)

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