Newsprint, one of the eight materials targeted for recycling under Pennsylvania`s Act 101 of 1988, is being generated in large supplies through the state`s municipal recycling programs. The amount will continue to rise as mandated recycling programs go into effect through September 1991.
Successful recycling depends upon adequate markets to absorb this new supply. Pennsylvania`s newspaper industry is committed to using newsprint with higher recycled content. Newspaper is also used as cellulose insulation, in composting and in ethanol production. Using newsprint for animal bedding is very popular in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania`s potential market for animal bedding for dairy cattle is estimated at 500,000 tons per year.
Newsprint bedding experience in Pennsylvania and other states has been mainly with dairy farmers. However, the bedding is suitable for most other animals, including cattle, hogs, and poultry. Veterinarians, pet shops and animal shelters have used paper bedding for small animals. Newsprint bedding has proved suitable for horses; however, mushroom growers prefer manure from straw-bedded horses.
Penn State University tested newsprint for use as animal bedding in the mid-1960s and concluded that newspapers, properly prepared, could make satisfactory bedding for dairy cattle. Since then, numerous state dairy farmers, beef producers, horse owners and poultry farmers have used newspapers for bedding under various conditions. The longest, most consistent operation monitored by Penn State is a Snyder County dairy farm, where chopped paper bedding has been used for nine years in a free stall (170 head) operation. Research has been funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Other states also have conducted studies on newsprint bedding. Wisconsin has used newsprint as animal bedding for years, and has developed facilities to chop/shred and bale the paper for dairy farm use.
Penn State has concluded that newsprint is safe for animal bedding, even when bedding is consumed by the animals. Researchers encountered no apparent problems with animal health or milk quality in feeding studies where dairy cows ate as much as 1.8-2.4 pounds per head daily. In fact, their research indicated that a mixture of 75% molasses and 25% ground paper made a reasonably good dry product for feedings. Studies elsewhere with beef cattle indicate no heavy metal contamination of meat at intake rates of 10-15% of the diet.
Fields fertilized with used newsprint bedding also show no ill effects. Penn State tested soil from four fields in Snyder County where paperbedded manure had been applied for over eight years; results showed no build-up of heavy metals. Tests on field soil in Potter County showed lower levels of heavy metals from newsprint bedding than from conventional straw bedding.
Newsprint bedding is highly absorbent and long lasting. Field tests at the University of Florida found that newsprint bedding will absorb almost twice as much water as straw bedding. The University of Vermont tested water absorbency rates of ground newspaper at four to six times greater than dry sawdust, and ten times greater than straw or hay. Farmers who have used shredded paper report that it lasts up to twice as long as straw.
Newsprint contains organic matter that makes it equal or superior to other kinds of bedding in fertilizing soils. The paper in the manure mixture decomposes rapidly when spread on fields. When mixed with watery substances, paper disintegrates into pulp fibers, so newsprint bedding readily mixes into manure slurry. Used bedding is easily transported in conventional waste handling systems.
Ohio State researchers say the preferred size for chopped paper is between 1" square and 3" x 5". Shredded paper should be in strips between 8"-10" x 1/4"-3/4". Finer particle sizes have been used for poultry.
Long strips of shredded paper pose a litter problem. They do not absorb the liquid waste as well as smaller sizes, so they are more easily windblown around the barn and after the manure is applied to the fields. Long strips also become entangled in livestock feet and are moved around or out of the bedding area.
If you are interested in obtaining bedding for dairy cattle, contact the Penn State Cooperative Extension dairy agent at your county extension office. The agent will arrange and coordinate a meeting with your county recycling coordinator. Working together, you will be able to devise the most efficient system for your needs.
If you wish to obtain bedding for other purposes, contact the Penn State Cooperative Extension for a list of newsprint bedding suppliers. Contact your county`s recycling coordinator if you have difficulty locating a source for newsprint.
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Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Land Recycling and Waste Management
Dvision of Waste Minimization and Planning
Recycling and Markets Section
PO Box 8472
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8472
Hotline Number in Pennsylvania only: 800-346-4242
Please Print on Recycled Paper