Can Paper Towels be more Zero Waste?

    The standard paper towels that you already have in your home meet a lot of the criteria for “zero waste”. They contain a recyclable cardboard tube, once the towels are used they are compostable (in most instances), and in some areas the plastic wrap they come in can also be recycled. So, what is the point of reusable paper towels?

    The point of reusable paper towels is simple- to further reduce waste, and to save money. 

    It is important to always consider ways to further reduce the waste caused by the production and logistics involved in the use of these common household items. 

    Most of my efforts towards Zero Waste are made in my kitchen. If your family is anything like mine, we spend a lot of our time in the kitchen,

    Over the years (even before my Zero Waste Journey), I have learned many things and made many changes in my efforts to reduce the waste that comes from my kitchen.

    When it comes to paper towels, I thought I was doing all that I could to reduce waste.

    • I buy the rolls with the smaller sheet size
    • I don’t buy the towels with added dyes or scents.
    • I recycle the plastic wrapping at my local recycling center
    • I recycle the cardboard tube inside with my curbside paper/cardboard recycling
    • I dispose of most of my used paper towels in my compost bins (unless they were used for harsh chemicals, oils, or other items that can not be composted)

    But, now I am learning that I can still do more to reduce waste.

    The Facts

    The facts about paper towel use in the US are astonishing.

    • In the US, every day, 3000 tons of paper towels are used.
    • It takes 51,000 trees, every day, to produce that amount
    • 260,000 gallons of water are used every day in production.

    Paper Towels were first introduced way back in 1879, by a Philadelphia paper company. But it was not until 1931 when they realized their true potential. They started manufacturing and marketing them for kitchen use, highlighting their convenience over other towels that needed to be washed after use. 

    What we now see as a hindrance to environmental issues, was initially marketed as a convenience.

    Reusable Kitchen Towels

    Most people own traditional kitchen towels, either decorative or for daily use. 

    I have dozens of them!

    Every color to match every mood. Every holiday is represented. 

    Silly as I can acknowledge that it is, some of those towels are never used to clean up a single spill, or dry off a single dish. And that is okay.

    I also have some towels that are my favorites, either because they are absorbent or extra soft. I have started to let these towels do a little extra lifting around the kitchen.

    I am conditioning myself to stop and think for a moment before tearing off a paper towel to use.

    Can this spill be cleaned up with a sponge or a reusable towel? Often the answer is yes!

    I have also discovered Swedish Dishcloths.

    Swedish Dishcloths

    They are super absorbent, long lasting, and can be put in the wash over and over again. 

    And at the end of their lives they are compostable.

    It is estimated that one Swedish Dishcloth can replace 17 rolls of paper towels!!!

    That is great for the environment and my wallet.

    I am hooked!

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