How to Compost Cereal Boxes | 6 Tips

Cereal boxes can be composted in your home compost bin and the inks and shiny carboard will be broken down by the soil bacteria. There are some things that you can do to help them to break down quicker including cutting it into strips, soaking the cardboard first, mixing it together with other ingredients and digging it through the compost pile.

The ink in the cereal boxes will be broken down by the soil bacteria and worms will break the boxes and the bacteria down too. Cereal boxes can make up a portion of the brown material in your compost bin because they are made up of lots of carbon.

Mixing in other brown materials such as hay, sugar cane mulch and fall leaves is essential to make sure there is a variety of food available for the soil bacteria to feed on.

This article will explore some easy tips to help cereal boxes break down as fast as possible in your compost bin. Check out ways to keep your compost in balance and keep the soil bacteria and worms in your compost happy.

Top tips to compost cereal boxes

Here are my top tips for composting cereal boxes at home. These tips will help to keep the compost bin in balance, keep the cereal boxes moist and help them to break down fast.

1. Keep your compost moist but not wet

To help cereal boxes to break down fast it is essential that your compost pile has a good balance of moisture. Adding a ratio of 1:3 brown materials to green materials is usually the best way to keep the moisture balance right. Piles should be moist but not soggy.  This is the best possible environment to allow soil bacteria to grow and thrive and break down the cardboard.

In very wet weather you may need to add more brown material to stop the pile from getting too soggy. We have had close to 2 weeks of rain and my compost pile is very wet. It is time to add more fall leaves to help to balance the moisture.

Lots of cereal boxes have brown, non-bleached cardboard on the inside which breaks down fast.

2. Get the balance right

Balancing the amount of brown material including cardboard from cereal boxes, shredded paper and natural materials such as straw and hay is essential to help them to break down fast.

Adding around ¼ green material including coffee grounds, food scraps and green grass clippings will help to boost the activity of the soil bacteria and help the compost to break down fast.

Having a healthy, active compost pile will help any materials including cardboard from cereal boxes to break down as fast as possible.

3. Shred your cereal boxes

One of the best things you can do is to shred your cereal boxes before putting them in your compost bin. You can do this by simply cutting the box into strips that are around ½-1 inch wide. You can cut these strips down again to small pieces to make them break down even faster.

Small pieces of cardboard from cereal boxes will break down faster because soil bacteria will have better access to more of the cardboard surface. Soil bacteria are eaten by garden worms and all of that digested and released into the compost.

These nutrients will be available to your plants when you mix compost through the soil or apply it as a top dressing. Cardboard will add lots of carbon to the mix but very few nutrients, That is why it is important to add other brown materials and green to make a nutrient rich compost.

Cutting cereal boxes into small pieces will help it to break down fast.

4. Start with small amounts of cereal box cardboard

If you are adding cereal boxes for the first time, start with a small amount of shredded cardboard. This way you will not overload your compost or cause it to dry out too much. Start with 1-2 cereal boxes shredded and wait for them to break down. This should only take around 4 weeks and then you can add more.

Larger, healthy active compost piles can break down more than this but start small and work your way up.

Start with one cereal box at a time and always remember to remove the plastic bag!

5. Balance with other brown materials

Cardboard from cereal boxes is a great brown material or carbon source to add to your compost. It should always be added with other brown materials however that are more bioactive and contain lots of soil bacteria.

I like to add fall leaves and sugar cane mulch to my compost. It is very wet after so much rain.

My favorite brown material is fall leaves. I collect these in compost bags and leave them near my worm farm and compost pile. I can then grab leaves out when I need to carry food scraps or balance my compost pile. These leaves start to break down in the compost bags over the winter and are the perfect ingredient to boost my compost pile.

6. Add green material

It is essential to add the right amount of green material to your compost when adding cereal boxes. Green materials like coffee grounds will supercharge your compost and add valuable nitrogen to the mix.  

Food scraps are also good green material and work best when chopped or shredded into small pieces.

You can also make compost without food scraps, check out my article here for more on this: How to make compost without food scraps

How to Compost Cereal Boxes | Summary

Cereal boxes can be composted in your home compost pile or bin. They will break down faster if they are shredded before putting them in your pile. This can be done by cutting them into strips with kitchen scissors.

Soil bacteria and worms will move in to digest the cereal boxes over time and can break them down in as fast as 4 weeks. Start with small amounts and add more after the first boxes have broken down. Dry cereal boxes can help to absorb water and stop piles from becoming too soggy in heavy rain.

Remember to cut your cardboard boxes to help them break down fast.

Happy composting.