spotlight on PAPER TOWEL

spotlight on PAPER TOWEL

Tracey Banks

one disposable you could really do without?

some swaps are easy but some habits are harder to break than others...when it comes to creating less waste in the kitchen, paper towels are our nation's favourite convenience. But this convenience comes at an environmental price.

what's wrong with kitchen roll?
paper's better than plastic - isn't it?
it's recyclable if not compostable - right?

not quite...

PAPER TOWEL (aka kitchen roll in UK) is

non-recyclable due to low-quality paper and contamination

as many are actually created from paper mill shreddings or recycled paper, they've already been through the recycling process several times. Each cycle, the fibres in the paper get shorter. By the time the paper's been reincarnated as a napkin or tissue, the fibers are too short to be used again. And because we use them to wipe up food, spills or wet substances they become wet and contaminated and therefore cannot be recycled like dry paper. a dirty paper towel or napkin could harbor all kinds of nastiness that could ruin an entire batch of recyclables. While recycling plants do clean the paper products they receive, there's no way to get the grease out of the paper's fibres.

non-compostable if paper has been chemically treated and/or is greasy

Some experts say you shouldn't compost these paper products if you're seriously sick or if the products are greasy, but others say it's no big deal. you need to check with your local authority (I did & NHDC say no!)

single-use, disposable and the majority goes to landfill

that's just unnecessary waste adding to the methane gas emissions causing global warming...

a UK/US obsession that has generated a resource intensive industry

alongside the astonishing amount of waste being produced by the use of kitchen roll, the production of kitchen paper itself involves the chopping down of many trees and the use of a lot of water. In fact, to make 1 ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed. With paper towel usage is estimated at 6.5 million tons each year, that's more than 110.5 million felled trees and 130 billion gallons of water used in the production of paper towels every year.

environmentally toxic through by-products

Not only is the production of kitchen paper resource-heavy, but the process involves the production of nasty by-products, including toxins which cause the human body many problems, and can trigger cancer cells. These toxins wash into waterways, which then inevitably end up in our bodies and the bodies of wildlife.

what do we use PAPER TOWEL for, and what could we use instead?

absorbing those kitchen or table spills? = use a reusable cloth

wiping out pans? = give it a quick rinse and scrub under hot water

absorbing excess oil from foods? = place on wire rack or bread crust (then compost)

wrapping herbs or fresh greens in fridge? = use a reusable damp cloth

what are the options for REUSABLE TOWELS?

1. choose organic fibre cloths (bamboo, hemp, organic cotton) and avoid plastic-based reusable cloths

2. purchase fabric kitchen 'unpaper' or make your own

3. repurpose old rags you could cut up some old, absorbent cloth into small shapes and use those.

Using cloth instead of paper means you will save money and the environment, all at once. Just collect them up in a basket and wash them in batches when you’re ready, then REUSE!

unpckd recommends

compostable sponges

bamboo paper towel


another disposable the planet could do without.



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