A composting bin

Can I put paper towel in my compost bin?


It's complicated, whether you can put paper towel into your composting bin, so read on!

Key info
Brown material📂
2-4 weeks

Get the right balance of brown and green composting materials in your bin with our expert guide.

Composting Paper Towels: A Sustainable Solution for Your Home

The Benefits of Composting Paper Towels

We all use paper towels on a daily basis, but have you ever considered composting them instead of throwing them away? Composting paper towels is an eco-friendly way to reduce waste and contribute to a healthier environment. By composting, we can:

  • Divert waste from landfills, where paper towels take up valuable space and contribute to methane production
  • Transform used paper towels into nutrient-rich fertilizer and soil amendment for our gardens
  • Improve soil health and water retention, supporting the growth of healthy plants and crops
  • Give new life to a material that is not suitable for recycling due to its short fibers and potential food contamination

When we compost paper towels, we close the loop on a common household item and prevent unnecessary waste. It's a simple action that can have a significant impact on the environment. To get started, consider investing in a composting bin to make the process more efficient and manageable.

Which Paper Towels Can We Compost?

Most paper towels are made from organic materials like wood pulp, making them technically compostable. However, there are a few types that we should avoid adding to our backyard compost piles:

  • Bleached paper towels: The chemicals used to whiten these towels can be harmful to compost systems and gardens. Opt for unbleached or brown paper towels instead.
  • Grease-soaked paper towels: Excess oil and grease can attract pests, cause odors, and hinder decomposition. Wipe off as much grease as possible before composting.
  • Disinfectant-treated paper towels: Antibacterial wipes and cleaning solutions may contain chemicals that negatively impact the helpful microorganisms in compost. Stick to plain water or natural cleaners.

As long as our used paper towels only contain organic materials like food scraps, dirt, or plant-based spills, they can safely be composted at home or through municipal collection programs. Unused paper towels are compostable too! For more information on balancing your compost pile, check out our ebook on mastering the green-brown mix.

Step-by-Step Guide to Composting Paper Towels

Ready to start composting your paper towels? Follow these easy steps to include them in your compost pile:

1. Tear or Shred the Paper Towels

Ripping paper towels into smaller pieces increases their surface area, allowing microorganisms to break them down more efficiently. It also helps oxygen penetrate the compost pile, which is essential for decomposition. A compost shredder can make this process even easier.

2. Balance Browns and Greens

Paper towels are considered "browns" in composting terminology, meaning they are high in carbon. For a healthy compost ratio, mix 2-4 parts browns like paper towels with 1 part nitrogen-rich "greens" like food scraps or grass clippings.

3. Bury Paper Towels Deep in the Pile

To retain heat and moisture while preventing odors, bury your paper towels under 10-12 inches of other compost materials. This creates the ideal environment for decomposition.

4. Turn or Aerate Regularly

Maintain proper airflow and foster decomposition by turning your compost pile with a pitchfork or using a compost tumbler. This prevents compaction and distributes moisture evenly.

With the right balance of materials and conditions, microorganisms will break down paper towels safely and efficiently. Monitor your compost's odor, temperature, and moisture levels to ensure its needs are met. To learn more about the science behind composting, visit the EPA's guide to home composting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we compost used paper towels?

Yes, used paper towels can be added to compost piles as long as they don't contain harsh chemicals, bleach, excess grease, or other non-compostable contaminants. Wiping up food, dirt, or water is perfectly fine.

How long does it take for paper towels to decompose in compost?

In an active hot compost pile, most experts estimate that paper towels will break down completely within 2-6 weeks. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will decompose.

Do we need special equipment to compost paper towels at home?

No special gear is needed – paper towels can go right into backyard compost bins, piles, or tumblers along with other yard and food waste. Most municipalities also accept paper towels in curbside organics collection.

By composting our clean paper towels, we embrace a sustainable solution that keeps this ubiquitous item out of landfills. With proper composting practices, we can transform paper towels into valuable soil nutrients, benefiting our planet and gardens in the process. Let's make composting paper towels a regular part of our eco-friendly lifestyle!

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