Is it Safe to Compost Paper Towels?


Paper towels and napkins are one of the many tings filling the landfills to the rafters. Many are reluctant to allow them into compost bins due to inorganic and possible toxic material that can be housed on them. In this article we will look at composting paper towels, the reasons many are reluctant to do so and a few alternatives to keep them from landfills.

The Compost Bin

  • Generally speaking, it is safe to place your used paper towels in a compost bin. They are a paper product and like cardboard or newspapers will break down into usable compost for your garden. They can also act as a neutralizer for garden and organic waste. Most councils and communities accept paper towels in their compost bins.

The Truley Organic Gardener

  • One of the problems attached to paper towels and compost are the non-organic and possibly toxic materials contained within them. Some paper towels are bleached to make them the color that they are. Some are also dyed to give them the patterns that they have. Having these items in their compost bin may mean in technical terms that you garden may not be truly organic, even though the product may break down nicely.


  • Paper towels are used to clean up spills. The mess is absorbed into the towel and discarded. Another of the possible problems is the matter that is absorbed. This may or may not be organic. It also may or may not be safe to have in a compost bin. If composting paper towels that have been used for cleaning make sure there are no chemicals or hazardous materials on them before pacing them in the bin.


  • Anyone who is reluctant to use paper towels as compost can still keep them out of landfills. The easiest way is to use them as mulch. By shredding them and placing it at the remains of your plants, they will provide a valuable use and eventually break down.

Animal Bedding

  • Old paper towels might be safe to use as animal bedding. Hamsters, mice and gerbils can be kept warm with old shredded paper towel and napkins. Make sure that there is nothing toxic or harmful to the pets on them before use, however.

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