When we know better, we do better. That’s why over 34% of waste is recycled in America today. But in our effort to recycle more and waste less, we may be doing ourselves a disservice. That’s because there’s one household item that commonly ends up in the recycling bin when it shouldn’t be there. Do you know what it is?
That’s right, paper towels.
When Not to Recycle
There are two key reasons why it’s important to separate paper towels or any lightweight paper product that comes in contact with grease, bodily fluids, spills or other messes from your recyclables.
Leave items out of recycling bin when they meets the following conditions:
- They’ve been used to clean or wipe up something: Grease from something like a napkin can ruin a batch of recycled paper.
During the recycling process paper is mixed with water until it breaks down into a pool of paste-like paper fibers. Those fibers are compromised when they come in contact with compounds like grease. The oil creates a layer that causes the paper fibers to separate from the water leaving holes, thin spots or grease stains.
- Any lightweight paper product that has been recycled before: Many of the paper towels that we use are already made up of recycled paper fibers.
As paper fibers go through the recycling process over and over again, eventually the fibers become so small they can be used for nothing more than a paper towel or bathroom tissue. The fibers in these products aren’t big enough to be reused but can still contaminate the batch of paper as described above.
For the average consumer, it’s not always easy to tell when something comes from recycled materials. It’s better to avoid recycling paper towels and tissues to reduce overall paper waste.
At Sollievo, we are committed with the idea of reducing waste, and would never encourage you to throw your used paper towels in the trash either. That’s a sure way to send them to the nearest landfill.
So, what’s a conscientious consumer to do?
Get Rid of Paper Towels the Right Way
If you want to get rid of your paper towels without being wasteful, we’ve got a couple of suggestions for you.
When You Can’t Recycle, Compost!
In some cases, you can turn paper towels into compost for a thriving garden. In a typical compost bin, it’s recommended you use leaves, coffee grinds and other nutrient rich items to reduce waste and create plant-food.
If you are running low on leaves, use paper products instead. Wet coffee filters, paper towels and tissues are among items that can be composted. Even paper towels that have been used to clean up spills can make a good addition to your compost pile.
It’s recommended you avoid composting any paper towels with chemicals on them as that can contaminate your compost pile and have an adverse effect on your plants. Some composters also suggest not composting greasy towels due to the risk of bacteria in the compost, but still others say if it’s a small amount of grease from a spill that it’s not going to hurt it.
Reduce Reliance on Paper Products
We are entering an era where people are being thoughtful about the products they purchase and that means considering the footprint those products leave on the environment. An emerging trend is people are reducing their reliance on paper products.
We see this with parents who select cloth diapers over disposable, and with companies implementing e-filing practices to reduce the need for print storage. It seems like it’s impacting every facet of society today in one way or another.
You can further reduce your paper waste at home by using reusable cleaning cloths.
Sollievo: Your Resource for Paper Waste Reduction
Within the next couple of weeks, Sollievo will be launching a new, innovative product geared at helping your family reduce paper waste. Our reusable silver cleaning cloths leverage the natural disinfecting properties of silver. These self-cleaning washcloths will provide your family with a germ-free, chemical-free cleaning experience.
For more information on how to get yours, stay tuned.