Can Napkins Be Composted

Dispose or Compost: Can Napkins Be Composted?

The average household consumes A LOT of paper. I am definitely guilty of that too! We’re not just talking about the paper you use to print documents or jot down notes!

Just take the kitchen for example: Do you use paper towels to clean up spills? Or single-use napkins to wipe your face clean after a family meal?

These are just a few paper products you might use every day without even realizing it. And, unlike printer or notebook paper, these items can’t go in the recycling bin!

The good news is that paper napkins are compostable… as long as they haven’t come into contact with non-compostable substances.

woman folding paper napkin
Napkins are compostable, but we need to be careful of items they had contact with

Can You Compost Napkins?

Yes. Paper napkins are compostable! 

In fact, as long as you adhere to a few simple rules, composting napkins is one of the most responsible ways to dispose of them.

Can Used Napkins Be Composted?

Sometimes! It all depends on what, exactly, the napkin was used for.

Napkins that are soiled with compostable food or other messes are entirely safe to compost. The same is true for napkins that have been used to absorb water.

However, you should not compost any napkins that have been used to wipe up non-compostable substances. Some common examples found in the kitchen include oil, butter, milk, and lard.

Nevertheless, if you do Bokashi compost, items such as meat and dairy are perfectly safe for that method and so are any napkins that were used to wipe such substances. Microorganisms present in a Bokashi bucket will safely break all items down.

Also, be careful composting napkins that have come into contact with non-edible substances. Sometimes we reach for a napkin to clean up spilled chemicals or pet waste. These napkins should be relegated to the trash. Not the compost heap.

How To Compost Napkins

There’s no special secret to composting paper napkins. It can be as simple as throwing used napkins in the compost bin rather than the trash pail!

how to compost napkins
There’s no special secret to paper napkin composting

To speed up decomposition and prevent the paper napkins from stifling your compost, it’s a good idea to break them into small pieces. 

Again, you don’t need to do anything fancy! Just ripping up the napkins by hand will do the trick.

Is Paper a Green or a Brown Material?

Paper (and, therefore, paper napkins) are considered a brown material in the world of composting.

What does this mean?

If you’re new to composting, then you might not know that compostable items are grouped into two categories. Healthy compost requires a balance of both categories.

Brown materials are rich in carbon and easy to identify because they are typically “dead.” Examples include dry leaves, sawdust, cotton fabric, and, of course, paper products.

The other category is made up of green materials. These are often “living” and full of nitrogen. Examples include freshly cut grass and fruit and vegetable scraps.

While determining whether something is recently alive or not can help identify which category it belongs in, this is only a general rule. For example, common kitchen scraps like eggshells or coffee grounds may be mistakenly identified as brown items but are actually green!

Is Composting The Best Way To Dispose Of Napkins?

Yes, composting is the best way to dispose of paper napkins. But it’s not the most sustainable solution overall.

As with many consumer products, reducing the number of napkins used by you and your family is the most effective and eco-friendly option!

Avoid using napkins when they’re not necessary. For example, encourage children to only take a napkin for meals when they are eating something messy (or have already made a mess!). 

Switching to reusable cloth napkins is another wonderful way to reduce the number of paper napkins being consumed. 

You don’t need to give up paper napkins altogether. Even reaching for a cloth napkin once or twice per day can make a difference over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can colored paper napkins be composted?

Not all colored paper is safe to compost. However, in the case of paper napkins, there’s little reason to be concerned.

You see, any ink or dye used to create paper napkins has already been deemed food-safe. So there is very little chance these compounds will impact your compost pile!

Can you compost bleached napkins?

Yes! It’s very common for paper products to go through a bleaching process during manufacturing. Without this step, we wouldn’t have the pearly white tissues and toilet paper we’re so used to!

Fortunately, bleached napkins are entirely safe to compost. Even if there is a trace amount of bleach left in the paper, it will do no harm to your compost or garden soil.

Are paper towels compostable?

Paper towels are compostable! But you must make sure to follow the same guidelines when composting paper towels as you would paper napkins.

Paper towels are often exposed to non-compostable substances. These paper towels should be kept out of the compost pile.

All other paper towels are 100% safe to compost, though!