If you’re someone who tries to reduce your environmental impact, kitchen roll is one of those household products that can leave you scratching your head.
Can you recycle kitchen roll, or should you compost it? Does it have a smaller carbon footprint than a reusable cloth? And if it doesn’t contain plastic, why bother replacing it at all?
We’re going to shine some light on the environmental impact of single-use paper towels, and why we think you should break up with them. Plus, we’ll share some of our favourite alternatives. Let’s take a look.
What’s wrong with using paper towels?
Single-use paper towels may not be made of plastic, but they’re still incredibly wasteful. Even though kitchen roll is made of a renewable resource – usually wood pulp – making it is an energy-intensive process that can involve a great deal of water. Some kitchen roll also contains synthetic inks and fragrances.
Paper towels are almost always non-recyclable, particularly if contaminated with food, grime or moisture. You can compost them or put them in your food bin, but only in limited amounts – and you need to be careful about what they’ve wiped up.
This all means that paper towels are destined for the bin after being used just once. They’ll either go to landfill or incineration, resulting in the release of greenhouse gases. That’s not a great use of the energy and resources it took to make that kitchen roll.
And of course, most kitchen roll gets packaged in single-use plastic – and we needn’t go into the environmental disaster of that.
Kitchen roll alternatives: the environmental considerations
So – what alternatives are out there to the disposable plastic-wrapped kitchen roll you buy from the supermarket? There are two paths you can take: either commit to reusables, or opt for a lower-impact version of the disposable roll.
We believe that replacing your paper towels with some form of reusable cloth is the best way, because each one can be used many times over. Of course, there’s the environmental cost of washing and drying them – but unless you put on a separate wash just for your kitchen cloths, this should be negligible.
However, if you’re an avid paper towel user, reusable cloths might not be a net positive for you. If realistically they would end up unused – or worse, thrown away – the extra resources it took to make a cloth versus a tissue would be wasted. If you don’t get on with washable kitchen cloths, a more eco-friendly disposable might suit you best.
Our favourite reusable kitchen towels
These bamboo towels by Ecoegg are one of our favourite ever reusable swaps. Each sheet is incredibly strong, super-absorbent, non-streaky and lint-free. They can be washed, dried and re-used 85 times – which means the roll has a whopping 1,700 uses! That’s a lot of waste and money saved. They’re made of sustainable bamboo fibres, and come in plastic-free packaging.
Marley’s Monsters Unpaper Towels
Made of absorbent cotton flannel and 100% plastic free, these reusable towels by Marley’s Monsters come in a variety of fun prints. The cloths are designed to lightly cling together, allowing them to be rolled onto a tube – perfect if you have a kitchen roll holder. Each cloth can be used and washed over and over, getting softer and more absorbent each time.
Our favourite low-impact disposable kitchen roll
Serious Tissues Kitchen Roll 2-Pack
This kitchen paper by Serious Tissues is made of 100% recycled material, with no plastic in sight. These are real jumbo rolls, with a 3-ply thickness and 100 sheets in a roll. This kitchen roll is carbon neutral and made here in the UK – and for each roll purchased, Serious Tissues plants a tree.
Cheeky Panda Bamboo Kitchen Roll 10-Pack
Stock up and save with this jumbo pack of bamboo kitchen roll by Cheeky Panda. Far stronger and more absorbent than your average paper towels, you’ll find yourself using fewer sheets to mop up spills. Made from sustainable bamboo using a natural, chemical-free process, these tough towels are FSC-certified and Carbon Balanced.
Want to make more eco-friendly swaps? View our entire Sustainable Essentials range here, and lower the impact of your laundry, washing up, cleaning and bathroom routines today.