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Why You Shouldn’t Buy Paper Towels (And What to Use Instead)

Rubber Glove Holding Paper Towel

Paper towels are a handy tool to have in your home, but they’re also not the most environmentally friendly option. Thankfully, there are plenty of great alternatives to choose from that will save you money and help keep our planet green. If you’re looking for an easy way to cut down on paper towel usage, read on for some easy swaps!

The vast majority of paper towels are never recycled.

Paper towels are difficult to recycle because they’re made from multiple types of materials. Many paper towel brands contain a variety of recycled and virgin fibres, including post-consumer content, pre-consumer content, polypropylene and polyethylene. Paper towels also contain inks and dyes that may not be able to be separated from the rest of the product during the recycling process.

As a result, most paper towel manufacturers don’t even offer recycling programs for their products (though there are some exceptions). In addition, most curbside programs won’t accept them either — even if they can be separated by hand or machine in your home — since they present too many contaminants that aren’t easily removed. And if you live in an area with community recycling or drop-off centres where you’d normally take items like cardboard boxes or plastic bottles? Well… good luck finding anyone willing to take those used paper towels off your hands!

Many don’t biodegrade.

You might think that paper towels are biodegradable and compostable, but they’re not.

If you’ve ever tried to compost them, chances are you’ve been disappointed. Biodegradability is determined by the amount of time it takes for an object to break down into water and organic matter. The standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require that an object must be able to decompose in less than six months or pass through a series of specific tests to be considered biodegradable; however, even if your paper towel passes these tests and is labelled as “biodegradable” or “compostable” (two different things), it doesn’t mean that it will actually break down in your backyard compost pile or landfill—or even worse, littering the environment where it will take years or decades instead of weeks!

They’re often bleached.

Bleaching is a chemical process that uses chlorine. Chlorine is toxic, and it can damage the environment when it runs off into rivers and streams. It also causes smog-forming pollutants to build up in the air we breathe.

If you want to reduce your impact on the planet, avoid bleached paper towels. The best option is to buy unbleached (which usually comes from recycled sources), but if unbleached isn’t available to you, at least look for low-chlorine options such as those made with elemental chlorine-free or ECF technology.

Paper towels can be a safety hazard in your home.

Paper towels can be a safety hazard in your home. They are not safe for babies and small children, because they can cause choking and suffocation. The chemicals found in paper towels could also trigger allergic reactions in some people (such as asthmatics), who may experience difficulty breathing after coming into contact with the product. Additionally, the dyes used to colour many brands of paper towel have been shown to cause skin irritation when used regularly over time.

There are better alternatives.

If you’re looking for something to dry your hands on, there are plenty of options that won’t add to our collective landfills:

  • Use a reusable cloth or paper towel. These can be thrown in the washing machine and reused over and over again.
  • Use linen or cotton napkins. They’re great for wiping down surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as drying dishes after washing them in the sink.
  • Use paper towels—yes, they still use trees!—or napkins made from recycled materials instead of regular ones made from virgin pulp (which take more trees to make).
  • If you live in an apartment building with shared laundry facilities, consider bringing your own rags so they don’t go into the communal bin; just be sure not to leave them lying around where someone else could pick them up!

You can make life better for the environment as well as for yourself and your loved ones by dropping paper towels from your shopping list.

There are a few reasons why you should consider giving up paper towels.

  • Environmental impact

When it comes to the environment, the production of paper towels has a large carbon footprint: It takes approximately 10 trees to produce just one roll of paper towel. In addition, most manufacturers use virgin pulp for their products—which means that any trees cut down for making toilet paper will not be replaced (they’ll simply be used once). This is bad news for both forests and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Health risks

Paper towels can harbour dangerous bacteria—and if you’re using them in your kitchen or bathroom, chances are high that these germs will spread from person to person as they touch other surfaces around the house before being washed away with soap and water (or not).

  • Cost savings on your bottom line

Since they’re made from wood fibres rather than cotton or linen cloths, they take less energy during production and have fewer material costs associated with them per unit sold compared with cloth counterparts like napkins or rags which last longer than standard rolls do anyways. So if anything there is an advantage here towards using those instead!


If you’re looking for a way to cut back on waste, you should consider dropping paper towels from your shopping list. They’re expensive, wasteful and often dangerous. Instead of spending money on something that’s bad for the environment, why not choose one of these eco-friendly alternatives?

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