Are Paper Towels Compostable or Recyclable?

Paper towels can be used for a variety of uses, particularly when it comes to cleaning up. However, when it comes to sustainability, the use of paper towels poses several questions, one of the most popular ones being about their composability.

So, are paper towels compostable? Well, let’s find out.

Are paper towels compostable?

Yes, you can compost paper towels, especially if they are clean. But if they are dirty, they may be unsuitable for your compost heap depending on what you used them to clean up.

What types of dirt can make paper towels unsuitable for compost?

While natural products like water and plant-based waste make your paper towels break down faster, anything with chemicals or oils makes them unsuitable for composting. So if you use your paper towels to clean grease, cooking oil, or cleaning products, they can’t be composed.

This is because the chemicals can kill the bacteria in your compost while the oily stuff will push the air from your compost and can even contribute to the growth of anaerobic bacteria. These anaerobic bacteria can destroy your compost and even produce a powerful odor.

Moreover, paper towels used to clean dog poop should not be placed in compost heaps.

They may introduce pathogens and even help spread diseases, ultimately resulting in the death of helpful microorganisms. And to take things up a notch, you should even avoid adding paper towels to your compost heap when you are sick. You can unknowingly spread bacteria and cause more harm than good.

How long do paper towels take to decompose?

Depending on the size of the paper towels, they can take up to a month to decompose. If you want them to decompose quicker, you should cut them into small pieces and add some water to them. This makes the worms act faster.

Are paper towels recyclable?

No, paper towels can’t be recycled, regardless of whether they are used or unused. The way they are manufactured results in them having weak and short fibers, therefore paper towels can’t withstand recycling.

Also, in the cases that they are used to wipe away any sort of dirt, even the most competent recycling companies can’t clean them effectively enough to make them safe to recycle.

Should paper towels be flushed?

No, paper towels should not be flushed. Since they are thicker than toilet paper, they take quite some time to break down in the water. As such, they can block your toilet and get stuck in the pipes.

So if you try to flush many paper towels down your towel, you could be causing serious plumbing issues.

Just throw them away

Ultimately, any paper towels that you can’t compost should just be thrown in the trash. This way, you don’t have to deal with any plumbing issues. And since paper towels are usually made from recycled paper, this isn’t much of a loss anyway.

So if you’ve been feeling guilty for throwing away your greasy used paper towels, don’t, there isn’t anything else you can do!

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