Whenever you pull a paper towel out of a dispenser after washing your hands, you might not have considered the impact that this has on the environment.
This is an action that we are socialized to do from a young age, and it is something that we never question. But what impact is the regular use of paper towels having on the environment?
When we think about items having a negative impact on the environment, we only ever really question if they are biodegradable or not. In the case of paper towels, they are biodegradable, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good for the environment.
In this quick guide, we’ll be taking a look at how paper towels are biodegradable, and whether, or not, this is good for the environment. So, let’s dive right in.
Are Paper Towels Biodegradable?
As we have established, yes, paper towels are biodegradable! There are some factors that will impact the length of time in which it takes for the paper towels to biodegrade.
For example, the thickness of the paper towel will have a big impact on how long it takes for the paper towels to break down. But, paper towels generally take between 2-4 weeks to biodegrade.
This can seem like a long time, however it is actually pretty quick, and most paper towels break down quicker than some fruit and vegetables, for example, apple cores.
Paper towels are not only biodegradable, but they are also compostable too. This is assuming that they haven’t been used to mop up any chemicals, cleaning fluids, or animal feces.
But, as long as paper towels are only used to clean up general waste, then you will be able to compost them.
Some people expect paper towels to be recyclable, but this actually isn’t the case. Regular paper can be recycled, but paper towels cannot because of the difference in fibers.
The fibers in paper towels are too short to be reused. Additionally, this is also influenced by the fact that paper towels are generally used to mop up spillages.
These two factors combined mean that paper towels are biodegradable, but they are not recyclable.
Are Paper Towels Bad for the Environment?
A lot of the time, people think that ‘biodegradable’ is synonymous with being good for the environment, but this isn’t the case.
Just because paper towels can, and will, break down over time, this doesn’t mean that they automatically have a positive impact on the environment. In fact, in a lot of ways, paper towels are actually bad for the environment, so let’s take a look at why.
Well, one of the main reasons why paper towels are not good for the environment is because of the manufacturing process that occurs in order to produce them.
During this, a lot of pollution occurs, and this has a negative effect on the world that we live in.
Likewise, when you take into account things such as the transportation of materials, and the fact that trees are being cut down to produce paper towels, then you can really see the negative effect paper towels have on the environment.
But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, paper towels can also have a negative impact on the environment when they are biodegrading too. All in all, paper towels have a small carbon footprint.
However, when you take into account the sheer amount of paper towels that you use, then this carbon footprint will quickly grow.
So, yes, it would seem that paper towels are bad for the environment.
Should I Stop Using Paper Towels?
Now that you know that paper towels do have a negative impact on the environment, you might find yourself wondering if you should stop using them.
If you really care about the environment, then the answer would be yes. But, stopping using paper towels isn’t as simple as it might first seem. This is purely because they are so widely used in day to day life.
So, you might not be able to stop using paper towels entirely, but you should definitely consider cutting back on the amount that you use.
Instead of choosing a paper towel in a public toilet, use the hand dryer instead, and instead of using a paper towel to dry your hands in your kitchen, use a regular towel instead.
If you make these simple changes, you will quickly find yourself reducing the amount of paper towels that you use.
There are some companies which do produce eco-friendly paper towels, but in the long run, it is simply easier to cut back the amount that you use. It is as easy as grabbing a paper towel one at a time, rather than taking a handful.
Over time, this will have a positive impact on the environment, and it will really make a difference.
What to Use Instead of Paper Towels?
If you have made the decision to reduce the amount of paper towels that you use, then you might find yourself looking for suitable alternatives.
Thankfully, there are lots of different eco-friendly options being created every single day. So, let’s take a look at some of the options that you have.
Some eco-friendly paper towel alternatives include:
- Bamboo paper towels – for wiping up stains and absorbing spilled liquid.
- Microfiber cloths – for cleaning purposes.
- Beeswax wrap – to cover over leftovers instead of paper towels.
- Unpaper towels – a reusable form of paper towel, that is expensive to begin with, but much more affordable in the long run.
So, as you can see, there are lots of different alternatives to paper towels which you can use. Alternatively, you can simply reduce the number of paper towels that you use to help make a positive impact on the world.
In short, yes, paper towels are biodegradable, and this is a good thing. But, just because paper towels are biodegradable, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good for the environment.
In fact, paper towels can have a negative impact on the environment, even though they biodegrade quicker than some fruit and vegetables.
This is why more and more people are switching to eco-friendly alternatives every single day.