Can Paper Towels Safely Go in Your Compost?

Can You Put Paper Towels in Compost? The Ultimate Guide


Composting has become increasingly popular as people strive to reduce waste and live more sustainable lives. While most of us are familiar with composting food scraps, there is often confusion about whether or not paper towels can be added into the mix. In this article, we will delve into the topic and provide you with a comprehensive guide on whether it’s suitable to put paper towels in compost.

The Science Behind Composting

Understanding the Basics of Composting

Before determining if paper towels are suitable for composting, it’s essential to understand the fundamentals of how composting works. Composting is a natural process that involves breaking down organic materials into nutrient-rich soil amendments through decomposition by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

The Importance of Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio (C:N)

To create ideal conditions for effective composting, maintaining an optimal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N) is crucial. The C:N ratio affects decomposition rates and impacts the final quality of your compost. Achieving a balanced C:N ratio ensures that microorganisms have enough carbon-rich materials (often referred to as “browns”) like dry leaves or straw, along with nitrogen-rich materials (“greens”), such as kitchen scraps or grass clippings.

Paper Towels: Are They Compostable?

Paper Towel Composition

Paper towels are generally made from wood pulp fibers that have been processed and bleached to give them their characteristic softness. However, some brands may include dyes or chemicals in their production process.

Ink Considerations

Many paper towel manufacturers use soy-based ink for printing patterns on their products. Soy-based ink is generally considered safe for composting as it is biodegradable and poses minimal environmental risks.

Can Paper Towels Be Composted?

Unbleached Paper Towels

If you opt for unbleached paper towels, they are typically a better choice for composting. Unbleached paper towels undergo less chemical processing, making them more natural and suitable for decomposition in a compost pile.

Bleached Paper Towels

While bleached paper towels can technically be composted with caution, the chemicals used in their production may slow down the overall decomposition process. It’s best to avoid adding large quantities of bleached paper towels to your compost if possible.

Tips on Composting Paper Towels Safely

Avoid Adding Greasy or Chemical-Contaminated Towels

To maintain a healthy and odor-free compost pile, it’s important to avoid adding greasy or chemically contaminated paper towels. These substances can disrupt the microbial balance required for successful decomposition.

Bury Them Underneath Other Organic Materials

When incorporating paper towels into your compost pile, bury them underneath other organic materials like food scraps or dry leaves. This helps prevent any potential issues from moisture accumulation or pests being attracted by exposed waste.

The Bottom Line: Can You Put Paper Towels in Compost?

In conclusion, whether you can put paper towels in your compost largely depends on their composition. Unbleached paper towels are generally safe and will decompose naturally over time when properly managed within an adequately balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N). However, it’s advisable to limit the amount of bleached or chemically treated paper products added to your pile as they may hinder the efficiency of decomposition. Remember to always prioritize maintaining a healthy balance in your compost heap by alternating browns and greens, avoiding excessive moisture, and turning the pile regularly. Happy composting!