Paper towels are a basic and necessary item in every household for cleaning. But what about the used paper towels? If you knew you could compost them, throwing them out would be the last thing on your mind. But, although they decompose, can you compost paper towels?
- Paper towels can be composted as they are a good carbon source and add other rich nutrients to the compost pile.
- Any paper towels you’ve used to clean dirt, water, dry hands, and other everyday tasks will go into the compost pile.
- You can compost paper towels through regular Outdoor Composting, Tumbler Composting, and Vermicomposting.
- Paper towels that are covered with oily dirt, human or animal waste, and chemicals should not be composted.
How to Compost Paper Towels
Paper towels are made of paper and, thus, decompose easily. So, you can compost paper towels in various ways, including outdoor composting, composting in a bin, composting in a tumbler, and 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.
However, avoid composting any paper towel that contains grease, oils, cleaning products, cosmetics, or other harmful chemicals. These paper towels may carry hazardous bacteria into compost, potentially ruining the pile.
Outdoor Composting of Paper Towels
You can compost paper towels 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.
Step 1: Set up the Compost Pile
Set up your compost bin in the corner of the yard. You can also dig a deep trench and start a pile in it.
It’s best to choose a place where a bad odor and some unwanted slurry spillages aren’t a problem.
Step 2: Add the Brown Materials (Including Paper towels)
Make the first layer of your compost pile out of small bits of wood, sawdust, twigs, pine needles, and other yard waste. The brown matter is high in carbon and gives energy to the bacteria.
You can also use newspaper, cardboard, and, of course, paper towels. But, avoid putting any glossy, printed paper in the bin.
Shred the paper towels and other paper products into small pieces.
Step 3: Add the Green Materials
Keep the ratios of browns and greens in check. You can begin with half browns and half greens or use a 3:1 ratio. (three parts browns to one part greens)
Step 4: Add Water
Add sufficient water to the pile to provide moisture for the microorganisms. But do not overwater.
Step 5: Repeat the Layers
Add the rest of the composting material as alternative green and brown layers. Make sure to top the pile with a good amount of browns.
You can seal the pile with brown material, soil, or fresh compost.
Step 6: Maintain the Pile or Compost Bin
Turn your compost pile every 1 or 2 weeks to mix it up and allow air and heat to circulate through it.
If the pile is leaking, add more brown materials and mix it correctly; if it’s cold and inactive, add more greens.
Compost Paper Towels in a Tumbler
Composting paper towel composting is quick and easy when done in a tumbler. The only added step here is shredding the towels.
But if you have a shredding machine, the job is half done. Now all you have to do is:
Step 1: Gather the Paper Towels
Gather all of the compostable paper towels you want to compost.
Make sure you’re only using clean, chemical-free paper towels that were only used for regular cleaning.
Step 2: Shed the Towels
Now, shred all the compostable paper towels using the shredder.
Tear your paper materials into tiny bits to speed up decomposition and minimize composting time. This also keeps the pile aerated and reduces the risk of clumping.
Step 3: Add the Paper Towel Shredding to the Tumbler
Throw the paper towel waste in the compost tumbler. You can add other organic and chemical-free paper products to the 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.
Step 4: Add Other Browns and Greens
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.
Step 5: Rotate the Tumbler
Make sure to rotate your compost tumbler regularly every 2-3 days to aerate and ferment the mixture inside so it can decompose quickly.
How Long Does It Take for Paper Towels to Decompose?
Most paper towels take 15 to 50 days to break down in the compost pile.
But, this decomposing rate also depends on various factors, including the type of paper towel used 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.
Can You Add Paper Towels to Worm Farm?
Yes, you can compost paper towels in a worm bin as long as you use clean, chemical-free paper towels. Because paper towels have a high water retention rate, they keep the bedding perfectly damp for the worms.
But, it is essential to shred the paper towels into tiny pieces so the worms can easily feed on them. Also, use damp paper towels to regulate the worm farm’s moisture level.
Finally, using any paper towel that is oily, treated with chemicals or cleaning products, etc., is toxic to composting worms.
Benefits of Composting Paper Towel
Paper towels are an essential requirement in households; they go on to the next task after completing one. When composted, paper towels have many advantages as follows:
- Paper towels are a good substitute for leaves. If you do not have access to dry leaves, you can use paper towels for composting.
- Composting paper towels reduces the household waste that ends up in landfills.
- Paper towel is a brown, carbon-rich material that balances the amount of nitrogen and provides essential nutrients in the compost.
- The shredded paper towels absorb excess moisture and prevent rotting and clumping in the compost pile.
- It increases the water retention properties of the compost.
- Paper towels prevent leaks in the humus and keep odors at bay.
- It increases the water retention properties of the compost.
Additional Tips for Composting Paper Towels
Although easy, composting paper towels may go wrong if not done properly. So, make sure to take the given measures for the best results:
- Do not compost paper towels, or toilet paper, if they have been used to clean something yucky and contaminated.
- Avoid infected plant material like rotten roots or leaves in the compost pile. It can destroy the compost.
- Do not compost wet and makeup wipes as they are coated with chemically treated cleaning products.
- Always shred the paper towels and mix them with dry leaves, hay, pine needles, etc., 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 browns.
- 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.
Use Paper Towels 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, cover them with another paper and dampen them. The seeds will germinate with regular watering, humidity, and sunlight in a few days.
Gardeners think using paper towels ensures proper seed germination and is just as effective as sowing the seeds directly into the soil or compost.
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. This results 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 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, 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 bin. Also, add extra dry stuff like dry leaves, sawdust, paper waste, and so on to keep the pile from clumping further.
So, now you know that you don’t have to throw paper towels anymore; you can compost them easily at home! Just maintain the compost pile, and you will receive nutritious compost for your garden and plants.
Another interesting waste material that can be used in gardens is wood ash. But, like paper towels, is wood ash compostable? Join us for more!