Yes, it is possible to compost paper towels, they are a biodegradable product after all! That is, as long as they are not soiled with chemicals. You also must make sure they are unbleached. Bleach is commonly used to make paper products, such as paper towels, white.
There are many reasons soiled paper towel waste created in restrooms make a great candidate for the compost pile. Typically compost is composed of nitrogen rich greens and carbon-rich browns. The nitrogen greens are yard trimmings and vegetable peels.
Carbon rich browns include leaves, twigs, straw, paper bags, newsprint, and cardboard – such as the cylinders inside of empty paper towel rolls.
A common problem to keep in mind is the imabalnce of paper towel waste to other compostable waste. This is especially the case with large office buildings and schools, where there is barely any green compost generated.
Assuming there is a balance you can then mix in carbon rich browns in with the nitrogen green compost. You can collect the paper towels in separately marked trash cans.
For example the University of Santa Clara in California has done this in their restrooms and gyms. The University of Washington did a successful pilot program in 63 library restrooms. The bins were labeled “paper towels only” and “landfill”.
A university can coordinate with the landscape/groundskeeper and the cafeteria to collect food scraps and other compostable materials to mix with the paper towel and other brown compost.
A Change We All Benefit From
By doing composting we can eliminate more waste going to landfills. On average in the USA we send 35 million tons of waste into landfill, and 32% of that is compostable!
But the best solution to be eco friendly is to not create waste. We can use machine hand dryers for example. We can develop paper towel dispensers that only dispense a little paper towel at a time. Switching from folded towel dispensers to roll towel dispensers can reduce the amount of paper waste too.
At home you can switch to reusable cloth napkins or micro fiber cloth more often. It’s good to cut down on waste, even if it is compostable.
(Image Credit: via Flickr)