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So, Are Paper Towels Recyclable?

01.07.2011

Photo Credit: Mattie B

Once again, a green news topic that might be common knowledge. However, I was curious…and the answer might surprise you.

A former roommate of mine used to always throw used paper towels in the recycling. I never thought that paper towels were recyclable, but the concept seemed reasonable enough after seeing him do it.

Anyhow, I checked into it and it turns out that my initial suspicions were on point, for the most part anyway. In the conventional sense paper towels are not recyclable due to the fibers that comprise them. They are made out of mostly recycled material. As a result, the fibers can only be broken down so far. Furthermore, the more the particles are broken down, the higher the risk of bacteria.

There are some unconventional ways to recycle paper towels though. I thought the most interesting way was to use used paper towels as compost. Because they are made of recycled fibers, used paper towels break down very easily. This method can be implemented to create high-quality mulch to use in gardens. Some waste disposal companies, like Waste Management, will accept paper towels as yard waste and use it in a similar fashion.

While paper towels are in fact not able to be processed at recycling plants, they can be recycled or reused in a number of ways, as is the case with most items. This is a nice reminder that many products we use already come from recycled material, and that if something does not fit the bill as recyclable material, get creative!

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Eric Waldstein

written by Eric Waldstein

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A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
-Greek Proverb