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Can You Compost Paper Towels? (And What Can Make Them Non-Compostable)

Can You Compost Paper Towels? (And What Can Make Them Non-Compostable)
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While it would be better for the environment if we all used fewer one-use items, there’s no denying the convenience of paper towels.

Whether they’re for a large gathering where lots of people will need them, or you simply use them day-to-day for household messes, paper towels have become a go to item in most of our lives.

While many one-use items end up in the trash bin, some are recyclable and/or compostable. In this article, you’ll find out whether or not paper towels are safe to compost.

Are Paper Towels Compostable?

Yes, most paper towels are compostable. In fact, as they are typically carbon-rich, they can help to add “brown material” to your compost pile.

However, while most paper towels are safe to compost, there are some exceptions. Let’s take a look at those next.

When Are Paper Towels Not Compostable?

While paper towels are generally safe to add to your compost pile, there are a few things you should watch for.

First, make sure your paper towels are unbleached. While at it, also make sure they’re free of any non-compostable fragrances, dyes, and chemicals. Adding these items to your composts can wreck havoc on the bacterial ecosystem.

Next, be aware of what the paper towels were used for. Even if they didn’t come with chemicals on them, if you used them for wiping down chemicals in your home, you’ll still want to keep these out of your compost.

The same goes for non-compostable food. Certain foods, such as meat and dairy, are better left out of the compost. If your paper towels are covered in these types of foods, you might be better off putting them directly in your trash bin.

How to Compost Paper Towels

While paper towels are typically safe to compost, you still need to make sure you do it the right way. Not following the proper procedures can potentially lead to an unhealthy compost pile.

1 – Remove Non-Compostable Material from Your Paper Towels

Before adding your paper towels to your compost, the most important thing to do is to remove any waste that’s not safe to compost, if possible. This could include certain foods (like meat and dairy), chemicals, or animal waste.

If you skip this step, you’ll take the risk of upsetting the ecosystem in your compost pile.

2 – Break Up the Paper Towel into Smaller Pieces

Before adding paper towels to your compost pile, make sure to break them up into smaller pieces. This will help them break down more quickly and allows you to more evenly mix the paper towels with the other items in the compost pile.

3 – Don’t Add Too Much at Once

Just like anything else that you add to your compost pile, it’s best to not add too much of one thing at a time. Paper towels are rich in carbon, so you’ll want to make sure you maintain the carbon to nitrogen balance by including plenty of nitrogen-rich materials as well.

Final Thoughts

As long as you’re careful about what your paper towels are made of and what they are used to clean, they can safely be added to your compost pile. Just be sure to follow the proper steps to ensure that you don’t upset the balance in your compost.

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