Are Paper Towels Biodegradable?

In a world where everything is disposable it is hard to be eco conscious. That's why we cover the question, are paper towels biodegradable?

Paper towels

If you've ever had to clean up a mess, it's likely that you have reached for a roll of paper towels. But have you ever stopped to think about what happens after you throw them away? Are paper towels biodegradable? It's a valid question, and one that deserves an answer. Let’s take a look and see if paper towels are as environmentally friendly as we believe them to be.

What are Paper Towels Made From?

Paper towels are made from wood pulp or recycled paper products, which means they’re made from cellulose—a plant-based material. This means that unlike plastic, paper towels have the potential to break down naturally over time. However, it is important to note that the breakdown process can take anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on the conditions in which they are discarded.

Are Paper Towels Compostable?

The answer is yes—sort of. While some paper towels may be compostable or biodegradable in certain circumstances, not all brands are created equal. Some paper towel brands may contain additives like bleach or dyes, which can slow down the breakdown process and make them non-biodegradable. Additionally, some brands of paper towel may be treated with chemicals in order to increase their absorbency or durability—both of which could potentially hinder their ability to break down quickly and naturally in a compost pile.

Can I Recycle My Used Paper Towels?

In general, no—used paper towels cannot be recycled because they contain bacteria and other contaminants that would contaminate the recycling bin or system. The only exception to this rule is if you have used your paper towel for something like wiping down windows or dishes; in this case, it can be washed off and recycled as long as there are no contaminants present on the surface of the towel.


So there you have it! While some types of paper towel may be compostable or biodegradable under certain conditions (and if free from additives), most used paper towels cannot be recycled and should instead be disposed of in the trash bin. The best way to ensure that your paper towel usage is as eco-friendly as possible is by using reusable materials wherever possible and opting for unbleached/uncolored varieties when shopping for disposable options.

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