Time to Rethink Paper Towels

Time to Rethink Paper Towels
March 15, 2019 Stacey Wilson

Picture this… it’s Friday evening, you’re sitting around at home enjoying a few drinks with some friends when someone leans over to grab the bickies and dip and accidentally knocks their freshy filled drink over… cue the panic!! There’s liquid going everywhere on your carpet!!

QUICK!! Someone run and grab the roll of paper towels out of the cupboard, unwind half a roll and soak up all that liquid. Phew! Disaster averted, now grab all that soggy, contaminated paper towel and chuck it in the trash. Voila!

Sound familiar? There are so many scenarios, exactly like that, that most of us of can relate to where we’ve been guilty of using way too much paper towel to soak up messes and spills that may happen around the home. The paper towel has slowly moved from an occasional purchase to a staple in most Australian cupboards.

What’s the issue with Paper Towels?

The problem with using paper towels is that although they are made from paper they actually aren’t recyclable due to the fact that they when they are used they are contaminated by the item that you are cleaning, therefore meaning that they need to go straight into the bin.

Another reason that they cannot be recycled is due to the chemicals that they are treated with to make them more sturdy and durable when wet. Typically water breaks up the hydrogen bonds holding together cellulose fibres in the paper; the addition of certain chemicals can improve this, causing the paper to hold together better. This is why a paper towel doesn’t melt in your hands – but it’s also why the fibres are then much harder to recycle, so typically have to be put in the trash or organic waste, unless your council is an exception.[1]

Some paper towels do get composted, but the majority end up in the bin and then move their way through to landfill. This results in approximately 254 million tons of trash every year worldwide. As many as 51,000 trees per day would be required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day.[2]

What are the alternatives?

There are so many fantastic ways to clean up your messes and spills without purchasing single-use paper towels. By simply switching to reusable cloths, sponges, rags, mops or any environmentally friendly cleaning products you are making a huge difference to the future of our planet by diverting unnecessary waste away from landfill.

So what’s stopping you? Go on, one small change in every household will result in one massive change for our planet.

[1] https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/earth/article/2016/05/02/7-things-you-need-stop-putting-recycling

[2] https://recyclenation.com/2009/11/going-paper-towel-less/

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