Composting Used Paper Towels, Napkins, and Tissues
Used paper towels, napkins, and tissues can be composted, allowing these products to breakdown naturally rather than ending up in landfills. Composting these paper items can enrich your garden soil and reduce waste.
Why Compost Paper Towels, Napkins, and Tissues?
Composting used paper towels, napkins, and tissues offers several key benefits:
- Diverts waste from landfills and reduces your environmental impact
- Produces nutrient-rich compost to fertilize your garden
- Saves money on buying commercial fertilizers
- Easy to do at home with a backyard compost bin or pile
What Types of Paper Items Can Be Composted?
Many common paper items can be added to your compost:
Used Paper Towels and Napkins
- Paper towels used for cleaning up food and drinks
- Soiled napkins from meals and parties
- White or colored paper napkins without dyes or colored patterns
- Facial tissues and toilet paper
- Paper towels for drying hands
- Shredded paper from document shredders
You can also compost paper plates, coffee filters, tea bags, pizza boxes, paper egg cartons, brown paper bags, cardboard boxes, and newspaper.
How to Prepare Paper Items for Composting
Proper preparation helps your paper products decompose efficiently in the compost pile:
Remove Any Plastics
- Dispose of paper towels or napkins with plastic coatings
- Remove any stickers, tape or staples
Shred or Tear Up Paper
- Shredding or tearing makes paper break down faster
- Try ripping up napkins and paper towels
Mix With Other Compost Materials
- Combine paper with fruit and veggie scraps, plant trimmings, egg shells
- The right mix of paper, greens, browns balances nutrients
Maintaining Your Compost Pile
A hot, active compost pile will process paper products quickly. Here are some tips:
Add a Variety of Materials
- Mix paper with fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings
Provide Proper Moisture and Air Flow
- Paper and other materials should be moist but not soaked wet
- Turn or stir the pile weekly
Site Your Pile in a Shady Spot
- Choose a level area of your yard that gets some shade during the day
Follow these guidelines for successful composting with paper waste in your backyard.
Producing high-quality compost takes some patience as a home gardening project, but cutting down on paper towel and napkin waste going to landfills makes it worthwhile for the planet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of paper can't be composted?
Avoid composting paper towels or napkins containing cleaning chemicals, grease from automobile shops, colored ink, or plastics. Most dyed paper products are not suitable for backyard compost piles.
How long does it take paper towels and napkins to decompose in compost?
Shredded paper towels and torn up napkins break down within 2-5 months in an active compost pile. Whole paper towels may take 6-12 months.
Should I cover up paper waste in my compost bin?
Covering paper products can help the composting process. Adding a layer of leaves, straw, or soil over paper waste will retain heat and moisture in the pile.
What is the ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for composting paper?
Paper products have a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio around 170:1 - making them "browns" in composting terms. Mix paper with "green" nitrogen-rich waste like food scraps that have a 30:1 ratio. Blend both types of waste to achieve 25-30:1.