Decomposition is essentially the breaking down of a material. When you shred paper, you are breaking it down so that microorganisms have smaller portions to work on. Chewing food before swallowing is the same idea; by chewing thoroughly, you are grinding your food into smaller pieces that are more manageable once they reach your stomach. Shredding paper makes it more manageable for microbes to break down once it reaches a landfill.
Decomposition of cut lettuce starts at the edges you cut it. Cut paper in smaller paper and those edges start to decomp first covering more area of the origional paper to make it faster is what I always assumed.
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