Can You Recycle Used Paper Towels

Recycling is a great way to help the environment by reducing waste and saving resources. Lots of people recycle things like plastic, glass, and paper. But what about used paper towels? You might be wondering if you can recycle those too.

In this blog post, we’ll explain why it’s hard to recycle used paper towels. We’ll also discuss some alternative options for reducing paper towel waste.

Why You Cannot Recycle Used Paper Towels

Non Recyclable Signs

There are a couple of main reasons why it’s hard to recycle used paper towels:

1. Short Fibers

Paper towels are made using short fibers, which are good for soaking up liquids. However, these short fibers make recycling hard. Unlike long fibers found in cardboard or newspaper, the short fibers in paper towels can’t be easily broken down and reprocessed into new paper products.

2. Contamination

Another reason why used paper towels cannot be recycled is contamination. After use, paper towels often become dirty with food residue, grease, and cleaning chemicals. These dirty substances can mess up the recycling process and lead to lower-quality recycled paper products. Also, having dirty stuff on the paper towels might be bad for health and the environment.

3. Resins and Adhesives

Sometimes, paper towels contain materials like resins and glues added during manufacturing. These help make the towels stronger and more absorbent. But these additives make recycling even harder since they can’t be easily separated from the paper fibers. So paper towels with these materials usually can’t be recycled.

Alternatives to Recycling

While recycling used paper towels may not be possible, there are some other eco-friendly options to consider:

1. Composting

Composting is a good eco-friendly way to dispose of used paper towels. Paper towels used with just water, food scraps, or for blowing your nose can be composted.

But, it’s important not to compost paper towels that have oil, grease, cleaning products, or chemicals on them because they can negatively impact the composting process. Instead, just throw them in the trash.

2. Reduce Usage

Another way to reduce waste is to use less paper towels overall. Consider using cloth towels for drying hands, cleaning spills, and wiping surfaces instead. Using fewer paper towels is better for the environment and saves money.

3. Choose an Eco-Friendly Alternative

For those occasions when disposable paper towels are necessary, consider eco-friendly options. Reusable paper towels made from sustainable materials are a good choice that helps the environment. You can wash and reuse them multiple times, creating less waste.


Used paper towels cannot be recycled due to short fibers and contamination issues. However, you can reduce paper towel waste by composting and switching to eco-friendly alternatives. With some simple changes, you can make a positive impact.

Share Your Tips: Do you have any additional tips or experiences to share for reducing paper towel waste? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I ever recycle paper towels?

No, paper towels are generally not recyclable. Their short fibers and potential contamination make them unsuitable for the recycling process.

What can I do with used paper towels?

You can compost used paper towels if they are not contaminated with food or chemicals. Otherwise, throw them in the regular trash. Don’t flush them down the toilet because it can clog the pipes.

Is it OK to reuse paper towels?

It’s generally not recommended to reuse paper towels because it can spread germs. However, if you’ve only used them for drying clean hands or surfaces you can reuse them for light cleaning tasks.

What is an eco-friendly alternative to paper towels?

Reusable cloth towels made from materials like cotton or bamboo are eco-friendly alternatives to paper towels. You can wash and use these towels many times, which helps decrease waste.


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