Ask Jessie: Newspaper is still good, even after you’ve read it

By Jessie Wagoner

Editor’s Note: We receive questions regularly from readers about a variety of topics important to those living in McPherson County. We will attempt to provide answers to as many of those questions as possible. If you have a question, ask Jessie, by emailing

Question: I am trying to find out if I can repurpose my newspapers as weed barriers in my garden. I don’t want to put unknown chemicals on my dirt, though. If you could let me know about the paper’s composition, I would truly appreciate it.

Don’t throw your McPherson News-Ledger away after you finish reading it. There are many useful ways you can reuse your newspaper.

One common use for newspapers is adding it to gardens. The McPherson News-Ledger, like the majority of newspapers printed today, uses soy ink. Many years ago, newspaper ink was composed of heavy metals like lead. However, once those materials were found to be toxic, the Newspaper Association of America started searching for a safer alternative. After trial and error, soybean oil was found to a safe option that also provides more accurate colors during the printing process.

Newspaper is biodegradable and will break down in your garden. During the process, carbon is released into the soil. Without appropriate levels of carbon, your garden won’t thrive. With the right amount of carbon, soil is healthy and fertile.

Newspaper is also a good filler material for large pots or containers. If you have a large pot or container and don’t want to fill the entire thing with soil, you can ball up the newspaper and fill the container with it. Then, apply the soil on top of the newspaper and plant your flowers. It will save you money on purchasing larger amounts of potting soil and will keep the weight of your pots lower, making it a little easier on your back to move them.

If gardening isn’t your passion, there are still some fun and useful ways to reuse your newspaper. Use newspaper as wrapping paper. I do this frequently for gifts at Christmas time and when gifting friends for their birthdays. Add a cute bow and you have a fun package. For me, it is particularly helpful because I don’t even need to add a gift tag. The people I’m gifting know if they get a gift wrapped in newspaper it is from their friend, the newspaper editor.

There is also quite a trend of using newspaper for craft projects. Some people roll it up and make beads out of it, while I’ve seen others make beautiful Christmas ornaments from newspaper. I am not particularly crafty, so I’ve never tried my hand at any newspaper crafts, but I’m sure some of you readers could come up with something neat.

Here are a few more ways to reuse your newspaper. If none of these work for you, add it to your recycling bin.

  • White vinegar and newspaper get windows sparkling clean. Pass on the paper towels.
  • Wrap breakables in newspaper to keep them safe while moving.
  • Use newspaper as packing material to fill a box.
  • Wrap up fruit in newspaper to help it ripen.
  • Place a newspaper in your luggage before traveling, it will help absorb odors.
  • Stinky shoes, ball up a piece of newspaper and stuff it in the shoe to absorb odors.