Do Worms Eat Paper? (What About Newspaper, Paper Towels and Cardboard?)

Paper is often used in worm compost bins as bedding for the worms. Although the term ‘bedding’ might lead you to believe that it is that which a worm slides into at night for a cosy sleep, it’s not that at all! 

But can your worms actually eat the paper?

Worms can eat paper, cardboard and more along with food scraps. Their bedding is the necessary added material to a compost pile, in order to create a stable and healthy environment for the worm to live in.

The bedding is what provides the necessary carbon element, as opposed to the necessary nitrogen element from the organic material.

Will paper harm your worms or your worm composting if they eat it?

No, paper isn’t harmful to worms or your composting as long as there isn’t anything toxic on the paper such as chemicals from cleaning products on a paper towel.

What kind of paper can worms eat? 

Worms can eat many types of paper. People tend to use paper in the form of cardboard, printer paper, paper containers and newspaper for the environment in their worm bin.

Although worms can eat paper in all its various forms, it important to not put too much of it in your worm composting bin. In order for a compost bin to work efficiently, it needs to be perfectly balanced in order for the worms to want to stay.

Even if your worms have no means of leaving the worm farm, you will notice that their composting is not as efficient as it should be! They can effectively go on strike – so it’s worth knowing what worms like to chow down on. 

Paper provides a wonderful environment for worms as it retains water well, making the worm farm perfectly damp, which is just how they like it.

Worms will, however, nibble through bedding. It is therefore important to make sure that the paper you have provided is safe for them! Glossy paper, for example, could be dangerous as it can contain chemicals.

If you do also plan on using cardboard, please make sure that there are no subtle staples in there that could harm the worms! A worm’s skin is very fragile and a cut from a lingering staple could be very dangerous. 

Ensure to take apart any cardboard boxes carefully before you throw them into your bin.

Do worms eat shredded paper? 

Yes, worms do eat shredded paper.  It is in fact suggested when setting up the bedding for your worm bin, that you shred any paper you choose.

Shredded paper will make it easier to disperse around the bin and easier for the small creatures to move and work through.

If the worm realizes that circulation is difficult and reduced due to untorn pieces of cardboard or unshredded paper, then it will not feel comfortable in its environment and will do its utmost to leave.

As this is such an easy thing to do, it really is important that you shred the paper, either by ripping it yourself or using a shredder before putting it in the worm composter. Before you use any bedding materials, it should be easy to navigate.

Can earthworms eat newspaper? 

Yes, earthworms can eat newspaper. Newspapers are actually a fantastic material for worm compost bedding!

Using newspaper as the bedding in your bin is a great way to recycle by reducing the paper waste and creating food and a healthy environment for your worms.

Plenty of us love hoarding newspapers, so it’s a good idea to get it shredded in with the food scraps. 

You may be concerned about the ink on newspaper, but there really is no need to worry.

Newspaper ink has not been found to be toxic to earthworms and they can therefore happily live in and eat it. We’d not advise you feed them on just newspaper alone, mind!

Of course, should you decide to use newspaper as the bedding for your worms, do be sure to shred the paper beforehand, making easier for your worm community to live in. 

Do worms eat cardboard? 

Yes, worms do eat cardboard.  In fact, over the years people have come to find that worms prefer to live in cardboard layers!

For more information about the uses of cardboard for worms, check out our complete guide to worms and cardboard bedding.

Do worms eat paper towels? 

Yes, worms do eat paper towels. In fact, paper towels are great for a worm’s environment.

They absorb and retain moisture really well, leaving your worm’s home damp – just the way they like it.

But, if you are thinking about a used paper towel in your composting bin instead of throwing it away, then do be mindful of what is on it!

If you used paper towels with, for example, cleaning products, do not put it in the compost bin.

Any harsh chemicals could easily kill your worms and damage the rest of the compost. Even a tiny bit could be very dangerous, so it’s better to just avoid putting it in at all. 

Various food particles can also be quite damaging to your composting pile.

Traces of spices, dairy products or other things that worms cannot digest well could obviously be harmful if they are introduced into the composting bin on a paper towel.

Worms are very sensitive about what you feed them and what they love.

Do red wigglers eat paper? 

Yes, red wigglers do eat paper. Red wigglers are common choices for vermicomposting, and paper provides lots of helpful, healthy carbon.

Paper retains water which will keep the compost nice and damp for your little red wiggler and will also be easy for them to digest!

Of course, as with all bedding, it is important to be certain that the worm can easily circulate and consume it, so a good rule of thumb is to shred the paper before putting it into your vermicomposting system. 

Again, steer clear of any chemicals you throw away. That goes for glue as much as it does cleaning products, too. Worms love paper, but hate any extra condiments.


In conclusion, paper in its various forms can be a wonderful material for bedding and a source of nourishment for the worms in your composter.

It retains water well and provides the carbon needed to balance out the nitrogen introduced into the compost via organic materials such as fruit and vegetables.

Take a look at our further guides to worm bins and worm food, too!