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Ohio State University Extension


Preparing Newsprint for Bedding

Community Development
Cynthia Bond

The format that Americans read for news is changing. A 2012 study indicated 23 percent of people living in the United States said they had read a print newspaper. That is half the number who did so in 2000, when nearly 50 percent indicated they were currently reading a print newspaper.

This fact sheet focuses specifically on the reuse of newsprint as an option for animal bedding. It reports data from a study conducted by the original authors of Heimlich and Dresbach that examined newsprint as an alternative bedding material for farm animals. The study was funded in part by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Litter Prevention and Recycling. The study addressed newsprint with black ink and examined the supply of newsprint in Ohio, effects of the paper as a bedding, as well as the absorption and decomposition. The bedding was evaluated on management and disposal, animal behavior and aesthetics. The newsprint bedding was shredded into small bales. Evaluators commented on the ease of use, stall maintenance, storage and disposal of the newsprint. They also observed animal behavior such as grazing on the newsprint, grooming of the animals and insulation qualities. The general appearance of barns and fields were qualitatively assessed as to dust levels and stall and barn appearance.

Newsprint is a paper product derived from wood pulp and is fibrous in nature. One fibrous property that makes newspaper attractive as a bedding material is absorbency. Cutting the fibers in paper allows the newsprint to draw more fluid into the fibers. Shredding and chopping are two processes to prepare newsprint for animal bedding. Shredding or chopping will cut the fibers within the newsprint and allow fluid to be absorbed. For example, paper becomes more absorbent with the finer grade of chopping or shredding.

Assuming that newsprint is to be used as a bedding material or a supplement to bedding for animals, it must be compared to other materials currently used for bedding. To be used as a bedding material, newsprint must be prepared by cutting, chopping or shredding into small particles. Preparing newsprint will aide in baling, delivery and barn maintenance. The preparation of the newsprint includes shredding to the correct size versus chopping. Separation of all clay coated papers and non-newspaper inks is assumed. The colored inks and non- newsprint paper products are not considered suitable bedding material at this time. Research and stall trials did not use these products.

Shredding Versus Chopping

Shredding is an historically more common means of processing newsprint—it is easy to identify machines that shred material. Shredding newsprint is an efficient way to cut the material and, subsequently, the longer shreds bale very well. The process of shredding paper requires a single blade to cut the paper, and the longer shreds intertwine and become dense to produce a solid bale.

Shredded newsprint is easily tracked out of stalls by humans and animals. The newsprint also tends to be pushed aside by the animals and "balls up" in the corners of the stall. This causes a concern about insulating the animal from the elements. Shredded newsprint can also be very difficult to manage with hand implements as it packs tightly when wet. If the newsprint is removed promptly, disposal will be easier. The packing reduces overall absorbency and creates problems because the shreds tend to "ball up" and clog chain-drive gutter systems.

Chopped paper tends to remain in stalls better than the shreds; it tracked much less than the longer pieces. Because of the nature of the cut, chopped paper has more absorbency than shredded paper and is easier to manage with hand tools. The nature of the cut does not allow for tangling with other materials, and therefore, management is easier.

It is difficult to chop a relatively uniform size of paper which looks better in stalls, is easier to disperse evenly, and reduces complication in removal. It is difficult to bale chopped newsprint as the smaller pieces tend to drift free. This same issue is a problem in transportation of chopped paper bales. All transport over the road requires a tarp or covered bed to prevent involuntary litter.

Size of Particle

There are positive and negative aspects to the newsprint size as well. When the size of the material is under 1.5 inches, newsprint looks attractive in stalls and has a high absorbency rate. The primary drawback to the small size is the concern of fibrous inhalation due to the large amount of cellulose dust raised. This size also requires that the newsprint is processed on site, as there is no means of "baling" the material. If the piece is between 1.5 and 3 inches, absorbency is still very good. Again, this size must be processed on-site because it is difficult to retain in a bale. There is little concern about fibrous inhalation once the pieces are over 3 inches. Pieces of newsprint between 3 inches and 5 inches are slightly easier to handle with hand implements. On-site preparation is necessary for this size as well. This size is not as absorbent as the smaller sizes, but will still absorb liquid. Any piece under 5 inches is difficult to bale and subsequently, more difficult to transport and manage. Anything over 5 inches has the advantage of being baled and transported. Larger sizes of newsprint are not as absorbent as the smaller sizes, but are more absorbent than other bedding materials.


Even with the steady decline of newsprint read by Americans, it continues to be a source that adds to a landfill. A 2015 study tracked landfill data and found compostable paper to be in the top five most prevalent category of disposal waste. There are many different ways to reduce, reuse and recycle newsprint while continuing to grow a recycling infrastructure.


Original authors: Joe E. Heimlich, Sereana Howard

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Originally posted Aug 14, 2017.