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

Composting paper towels is an eco-friendly way to dispose of this common household item instead of sending it to landfills. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about composting paper towels, from which types can be composted to step-by-step instructions for including them in your compost pile. Read on to learn how this sustainable practice can benefit the environment.

What Types of Paper Towels Can Be Composted?

While most paper towels are technically compostable since they are made from organic materials like wood pulp, there are a few types that should not go into backyard compost piles:

  • Bleached paper towels: The bleach used to whiten paper towels contains chemicals that could be harmful to gardens and compost systems. Opt for unbleached or brown paper towels instead.

  • Grease-soaked paper towels: Excess oil and grease can attract pests, cause foul odors, and prevent proper decomposition. Before adding soiled paper towels, wipe off as much grease as possible.

  • Disinfectant-treated paper towels: Disinfecting chemicals found in antibacterial wipes and cleaners may negatively impact helpful composting organisms. Stick to plain water or natural cleaning solutions.

As long as your used paper towels contain only organic materials like food scraps, dirt, or plant-based spills, they can safely be added to compost piles or municipal collection programs. Unused paper towels are compostable as well.

Why Compost Paper Towels?

Composting paper towels offers numerous environmental benefits:

  • Diverts waste from landfills
  • Avoids methane production during anaerobic breakdown
  • Turns waste into useful fertilizer and soil amendment
  • Improves soil health and water retention
  • Supports food growth through added nutrients

Composting is especially impactful for paper towels, as they are not recyclable even though they are made of paper. The short fibers and food contamination make them unsuitable for recycling processes.

By composting rather than trashing paper towels, we give the materials new life and prevent unnecessary waste.

How to Include Paper Towels in Your Compost Pile

Adding paper towels to a compost system is easy. Follow these simple steps:

1. Rip or Shred Paper Towels

Tearing paper towels into smaller pieces increases surface area for microorganisms and allows oxygen to penetrate the pile.

2. Mix Browns and Greens

For a healthy ratio, add 2-4 parts high-carbon "browns" like paper towels to every 1 part nitrogen-rich "greens" like food scraps.

3. Bury Paper Deep in the Pile

Burying paper towels under 10-12 inches of compost materials retains heat and moisture while preventing odors.

4. Turn or Aerate the Pile

Regular turning or aerating maintains airflow and fosters decomposition. Use a pitchfork or compost tumbler.

With the right balance of materials and proper conditions like moisture and oxygen levels, microorganisms will break down paper towels safely and efficiently. Monitor odor, temperature, and moisture to ensure your compost's needs are met.

Frequently Asked Questions About Composting Paper Towels

Can I put used paper towels in my compost pile?

Yes, used paper towels are perfectly fine to add 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 not an issue.

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

Most experts estimate 2-6 weeks for complete breakdown when mixed into an active hot compost pile. The smaller the pieces, the faster paper towels will decompose.

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

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

In summary, composting clean paper towels presents an easy, sustainable way to keep this ubiquitous item out of landfills. By following proper composting guidelines, we can cycle paper towels back into soil nutrients rather than into waste. Our planet and gardens will thank us.

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