Every time you have a spill in the kitchen or need to dry your hands, paper towels are probably your go-to solution. They’re quick and easy to use, so you don’t give them too much thought after throwing them away.
Like much of your trash, paper towels end up in landfills and become a hassle not only to the waste department but to the environment.
If you want to make an effort and make a greener approach, there are things to consider regarding paper towels. So, are paper towels eco-friendly? Read more to find out the answer and some things you can do for a change.
What’s in a paper towel?
In short, paper towels are made from wood fibers mixed with additives, then cleaned and turned to their classic white color with chlorine bleach.
These towels vary in quality, so when you’re buying less resistant ones, you’ll probably need more than one to wipe. Once they reach your hands, paper towels serve once and add up to waste one by one.
Unfortunately, paper towels are harder and even impossible to recycle because of the bleach, so you end up with a significant amount of waste. In the end, it’s hard to keep a system making white paper towels, not to mention the carbon emissions from these processes.
Also, most paper towels can’t even get recycled depending on what you just cleaned. Some residue from cleaning solutions and food will render these towels unrecyclable.
Alternatives to paper towels
If you wonder what can replace white paper towels to reduce the amount of waste and environmental impact, here are three alternatives:
If you need something more heavy-duty, washcloths are an excellent choice. However, if you don’t wash and dry these cloths often, they can develop odor and gather bacteria, unlike a one-use rag.
Unbleached paper towels aren’t the best-looking, but they get the job done. Without all those additives like conventional paper towels, they’re highly recyclable. Although we can’t fully rely on recycling because of carbon emissions, we can repurpose this paper easily after using it because it’s compostable.
Reusable paper towels
Found with the label “unpaper towels” in stores; they look and feel like washcloths. Although still limited in use, since they’re not made for deep cleaning, they’re resistant enough for a few washes.
Most of them are made of fabric, but your best pick is the one made with compostable materials, ensuring their eco-friendliness. If you have a very messy kitchen, you’ll see better results if you keep two or three of these towels on rotation.
In function, this choice is an excellent middle ground between regular paper towels and washable cloths.
Side note: Aren’t hand air-dryers an alternative?
Sure, air dryers can be eco-friendly. They’re the low-cost choice of many commercial buildings, removing the need for paper towels.
However, as they blow air at high speed, they can spread bacteria and viruses fast, so you’d be risking infections. At home, there isn’t that much of a risk, but paper towels are still your safest bet.
Reducing paper waste is just one of the many tasks you need to fulfill to go green at home, but sometimes you’ll find yourself without time to take care of all the cleaning.
If you need help and don’t want to buy unnecessary cleaning supplies, you can always consider companies like CalMaids, which offer cleaning services in San Jose Area. Get all the help you need in your greener journey.