Can you Compost Paper Towels? (If Yes Then How & When?)

Everyone uses paper towels. It’s an elementary and necessary item in every household that we use for cleaning regularly. But what about the used paper towels? Throwing them out would be the last thing on your mind if you knew you could compost them. Paper towels are single-use, disposable towels. But, although they are decomposable, can we compost paper towels?

Paper towels can be composted as they are a good carbon source and add other rich nutrients to the compost pile. But before you compost the used paper towels, it’s crucial to make sure that they are not covered with oily dirt, human or animal waste, and chemicals.

Any paper towels you’ve used to clean dirt, water, dry hands, and other everyday tasks will go into the compost pile.

How to Compost Paper Towels:

Composting paper towels can be done in various ways, including outdoor composting, composting in a bin, composting in a tumbler, even vermicomposting.

The best part is that you can compost anything from paper towels to tissue paper, clean toilet paper, paper bags, paper napkins, and even cardboard using these methods.

Outdoor Composting:

You can compost paper towels at your home in the standard compost heap with utmost ease. You can dig a pit in the idle area of your yard, or you can use a wooden or plastic bin for outdoor composting. Follow these simple steps to compost the paper towels in a compost pile.

paper towels in a compost pile
  1. Make a composting area in your yard or garden corner. It’s best to choose a place where a bad odor and some unwanted slurry spillages aren’t a problem.
  2. Now, you can start building the first layer of your compost pile in the bin using small pieces of wood, sawdust, twigs, and other yard waste materials.
  3. Add organic waste with one type of material at a time; for example, if the first layer is green waste, the second layer should be brown materials. 
  4. Add sufficient water to the pile to provide moisture for the micro and microorganisms but do not overwater.
  5. Turn your compost pile every couple of weeks to mix it up and allow air and heat to circulate through it, providing the microorganisms with the oxygen to accelerate the composting process.

Using a Composting Tumbler:

Paper towel composting is a quick process, with only one extra step added to the regular composting procedure of shredding the towels.

But composting can be significantly easier with a composting tumbler and a shredding machine. Follow these simple steps to compost paper towels in a tumbler:

compost paper towels in tumbler
  1. Gather all of the compostable paper towels you’ll use in the compost tumbler. Make sure you’re only using clean, chemical-free paper towels.
  2. Shred all of the paper towels. Tearing your paper materials into tiny pieces will accelerate their decomposition and shorten its time to create compost. This will also keep the pile aerated and reduce the chances of clumping. 
  3. Now, place the paper towel waste in the compost tumbler. Make sure the green and brown materials are in the right proportions. The basic rule is to go by the ratio of 1 by 3.
  4. Add other composting ingredients like dried leaves, used flowers, grass clippings, food waste, plant cuttings, and other organic materials. If your compost mix is too dry, add more green kitchen waste such as fruits and other plant-based food scraps.
  5. Turn or rotate your compost tumbler regularly every 2-3 days to aerate and ferment the mixture inside, allowing it to break down more quickly.

Benefits of Composting Paper Towel:

Paper towels are an essential requirement in households for cleaning. They go on to the next task after completing one. When composted, paper towels have many advantages.

  • Paper towels are a good substitute for leaves. If you do not have access to dry leaves, you can use paper towels for composting.
  • The primary benefit of using paper towels for composting is that it reduces the household waste that ends up in landfills.
  • Paper towel is brown, carbon-rich material that balances the amount of nitrogen and provide essential nutrients in the compost.
  • The shredded paper towels absorb excess moisture and prevent rotting and clumping in the compost pile.
  • Paper towels prevent leaks in the humus and keep odors at bay.

Additional Tips for Composting Paper Towels:

  • Paper towels, including toilet paper, are compostable if they haven’t been used to clean something yucky and contaminated.
  • Do not add any infected plant material like rotten roots or leaves to the compost pile. It can destroy the compost.
  • Do not compost wet and makeup wipes as they are coated with chemically treated cleaning products.
  • MIx the shredded paper towels with things such as dry leaves to avoid matting and rotting.
  • Do not keep the wet food scraps on the top of the compost pile as it can attract bugs and rodents. Instead, bury them deep, or layer them with a lot of brown material.
  • If you’ve mistakenly thrown an oily paper towel in a pile, there’s no need to be worried. An active and warm compost pile can handle a negligible number of greasy materials.
  • Although it is advisable to use only unbleached paper towels, bleaching material is not really harmful to the compost.

How Long Does It Take for Paper Towels to Decompose?

It takes 15 to 50 days for most paper towels to break down and compost. The average time it takes depends on various factors, including the type of paper towel you’re using for composting, its thickness, and whether it’s shredded.

Tearing the paper into tiny parts is the best way to speed up the bacterial action and, thus, decomposition.

Use Paper Towels in Gardening:

For Germination:

Paper Towel For Germination

One of the most common and practical uses of paper towels in gardening other than composting is seed germination.

You just need to place the seeds on a paper towel or tissue paper, and cover them with another paper and dampen them. The seeds will germinate with regular watering, humidity, and sunlight in a few days.

Gardeners think that using paper towels ensures proper seed germination and is just as effective as sowing the seeds directly into the soil or compost.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are paper towels biodegradable?

Yes, paper towels are biodegradable to a great extent because the paper goes through several processing stages during the manufacturing process, resulting in thin and brittle paper fibers that are easily decomposed.

Can you compost paper plates?

Yes, you can compost used paper plates only if they are not poly-coated and have any oily, fatty, or greasy residues.

Can you compost bamboo paper towels?

Most bamboo paper towels are compostable as long as they do not contain synthetic fiber such as rayon, which is commonly used to make bamboo towels.

Can you compost white paper towels?

White paper towels are nothing but bleached paper towels, and you should not compost them. Although the bleaching agent may decompose in the environment, it will harm the microbes in the compost.

What to do if my compost is too wet?

If your compost pile is overly wet or leaking, it’s best to dig it all out and aerate the materials before restoring them to the compost pit. Add extra dry substances like dry leaves, sawdust, paper waste, and so on to keep the pile from clumping.