Can You Compost Paper Towels?

compost paper towel

If your household is anything like mine, you probably go through an enormous amount of paper towels per week. Admittedly, I often opt to use a paper towel when I probably should use a cloth towel. Yes, I need to work on this, but I think many people are likely in the same boat.

Well, maybe there is a way to feel a bit less guilty about using so much paper towel. As the title of this article states “Can you compost paper towels?”. This is an interesting question since paper towels are commonly not the first thing that comes to mind when we think about composting. However, paper towel does decompose relatively quickly and it can be composted. Let’s take a look at some details regarding composting paper towels and some things to consider before doing so.

What was cleaned up?

If you are cleaning up motor oil with paper towel, it probably is not a good idea to compost these paper towels. Okay, this is an extreme example, but you get the point. You should be aware of what you are directly or indirectly adding to your compost. You do not want toxic or inorganic material polluting your environment once the compost is used.

Avoid composting paper towels that were used with cleaning solutions (including green cleaning products), chemicals, cooking oil/grease, body waste (including pet waste), or for the clean up of illness.

What are the paper towels made of ?

You should also be aware of the make up of the paper towel.  An unbleached 100% recycled paper towel such as Seventh Generation is a good candidate to compost. However,  you may wish to avoid composting paper towels that have been bleached, dyed, or that contain added fragrances. This, of course, is a personal choice that you will likely have to consider against sending the paper towels off to a landfill.

Final thoughts

Now that you know that paper towel can be added to your compost, think how much paper towel is tossed in the garbage per day in both private and commercial settings. Over the past month I know I have tossed paper towel in the trash at airports, restaurants, and stores to name a few places. Wide spread commercial paper towel composting programs just have not caught on due to the cost and potentially other factors. While we do not have control over commercial waste, we can do our part to use less paper towel and compost it when appropriate.