Can you compost paper towels?

Do you want to know if paper towels can be composted? This definitive guide to composting paper towels explains when it’s allowed (and when it’s not!) to put them in the compost bin, as well as some eco-friendly paper towel alternatives.

Do you make an effort to be environmentally conscious in the kitchen? We feel the same way! When it comes to a sustainable kitchen, several elements must be considered, from the paper towels you use to whether or not you compost them. It’s crucial to know if your old paper towels are polluted with substances that can’t be broken down before tossing them in the compost bin.

If the paper towels are free of oil, chemical residue, or heavy bacteria, they can be composted. Wipe and unused paper towels, as well as paper towels used to clean surfaces, dishes, and dry your hands, may all be composted.

To find out if you can compost your paper towels, learn about how they’re created, how they decompose, and why you shouldn’t use them in the compost.

Are you interested in finding out if you can compost paper towels? Let’s get started!

Can you compost paper towels?

Table of Contents

🧻 What Are Paper Towels?

Paper towels are disposable, absorbent towels made of paper. They soak up water, which is why many people use them to dry damp surfaces around the house.

There are several paper towel brands that create a variety of paper towel goods. Some have unique characteristics, such as increased scrub strength, increased absorbency, or a smaller weight.

While all paper towels are intrinsically biodegradable, the purpose for which they are used ultimately decides whether or not they may be composted. Paper towels that have been used to clean up water, plant-based meals, and/or soil can be composted. Paper towels soiled with grease or cleaning agents (even green cleaning products!) should not be composted, on the other hand.

🌳 How paper towels are made

The way paper towels are created determines whether or not they may be composted. They’re usually formed of organic components like water, wood, and pulp, which can degrade in most situations.

  • The development of the paper substance is one of the phases in making paper towels. Paper towels are made from the bark and fibers of softwood trees.
  • Churning. After being sorted and diced into tiny pieces, softwood tree bark is churned into a smooth pulp.
  • Cleaning. To eliminate germs, pollutants, and particles, the pulp is cleaned and bleached numerous times.
  • Pressing. Following the cleaning of the pulp, it is pressed into paper. The soft, absorbent texture of paper towels is due to the fact that it is not pressed as hard as commercial paper.
  • Bounding. The layers of ply are meticulously linked together using light and adhesives to make a paper towel sheet. Two sheets are used to make most paper towels.

💦 Can we compost bleached paper towels?

Most manufacturers incorporate a bleaching stage that eliminates the natural brown color and renders paper towels white, in addition to churning the raw paper towel components and cleaning and pressing the leftover pulp.

Paper towels, whether white or bleached, are biodegradable. Bleaching, on the other hand, adds chemicals to the production process that are superfluous and may have negative environmental consequences. As a result, we recommend using unbleached paper towels whenever possible.

🌱 In Compost, How Do Paper Towels Decompose?

Compostable paper towels might take anything from 2 weeks to 45 days to decay.

Microbes and fibers from paper towels are neutralized and transformed into mulch by composting. After that, you may use the mulch to grow new flowers and trees. What a wonderful example of the circle of life!

The rate at which paper towels degrade is determined by several factors:

  • The moisture content of the paper towel: Wet paper towels degrade faster in compost than dry paper towels. Before throwing paper towels in the compost, shred, chop, or rip them into little pieces to speed up the decomposition process.
  • Grease or chemicals: Paper towels that have been soiled with grease or chemicals will take longer to degrade and may even block the process entirely.

BONUS! Paper towels can be used in place of leaves in compost if they are grease-free and chemical-free.

While paper towels can degrade in compost, we recommend reducing your paper towel usage as much as possible. Although paper towels are handy, replacing single-use goods with reusable alternatives is essential for creating a sustainable kitchen (and it also saves money!).

♻️ Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Paper Towels

There are lots of eco-friendly alternatives to paper towels on the market if you’re ready to cut back on your consumption. These will save your compost bin from becoming overburdened with paper towels if you use them.

  • Unpapered Towels” – These kitchen towels, made of bamboo and washable for over 100 washes, may assist remove dirt, liquids, filth, germs, and oil.
  • Sweden Dishcloths – Sponge replacement that reduces the need for paper towels. Made from sustainable cotton and wood pulp or naturally biodegradable cellulose.
  • Cotton Cloths – These cotton-based unpaper towels are handcrafted in the United States by a small family business (save 10% off with coupon FORKINTHEROAD!).
  • Rip up old t-shirts or towels – There’s no need to buy new towels; simply reuse old shorts, towels, or even baby burp cloths (which are quite absorbent!).

All of these paper towel alternatives are reusable, which not only helps you save money but also reduces your paper towel consumption.

💚 More zero waste kitchen + composting tips

Do you want to learn more about becoming green in the kitchen? With these sustainable kitchen guides, we’ve got you covered:

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