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Ways to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Paper Towels or Napkins

written by: Stephanie Mojica•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 3/20/2010

It's important to decrease napkin and paper towel waste. Learning to reduce, reuse, and recycle them is a major concern today for those looking to do their part in true green living. Not only can reusing paper towels and napkins greatly help the environment, but also it can help you save money!

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    Overview

    Decreasing napkin paper towel waste doesn't have to be hard, nor does it have to be appalling to reduce, reuse, or recycle paper towels. These concepts might sound gross when you first hear of them. But, this effort doesn't have to be unsanitary or even plain unpalatable.

    Saving the Earth is important to every caring person who strives to follow green living practices, and even small steps like purchasing them from companies which are using recycled paper in their products can go a long way toward reducing the trash in landfills. A great bonus of course, is the ability to save money. If you're using recycled paper towels already (and any environmentally-conscious person should be!) then, the cost per roll is about $1.50 as of 2010. Even if you're using regular paper towels, the cost can still exceed about $.35 a roll. Marcal, Green Forest, and Seventh Generation are just a few of the companies using recycled paper in their products.

    Paper towels and napkins can get used up FAST, especially if you cook a lot, clean consciously and/or have young children.

    One of the best ways to immediately start ending napkin waste is to use one-ply instead of two. This also helps save money.

    Unfortunately, most localities aren't going to let you recycle paper towels by putting them into a collection bin. They are considered personal hygiene products and thus not able to be actually recycled due to potential contamination. But, don't let this stop you from finding creative ways to do your part in alleviating the burden of landfills.

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    How it Works

    Simply wash each paper towel and napkin with hot water and non-scented soap. Set them on a clean fabric towel to dry. Then reuse the products in other ways, such as, for cleaning or composting.

    Keep in mind towels and napkins used to clean up human or animal waste or chemicals should NOT be re-used.

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    What to Do With the Actual Rolls

    Paper towels usually come with cardboard tubes to form the rolls. You can practice even more environmentally-conscious living by reusing these or recycling them. Recycling companies, whether you visit them or they pickup from your home, will happily accept clean paper towel tubes. This also applies to toilet paper rolls. (Though, we are not advocating reusing or trying to recycle used toilet tissue!)

    If you have kids, you can also use these rolls for arts and crafts projects! They can make anything from Abraham Lincoln toys to holiday delights relating to Advent or angels. A mini-basketball court game can even be made using the actual rolls from paper towels.

    This helps you save money on recreation and also keeps the children busy while you're attending to matters such as washing, drying and reusing paper napkins and towels!

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    Alternatives

    If you really just can't bring yourself to reuse paper napkins and towels - and some that were used to wipe up heavy chemicals might not be safe to re-home - then, save the waste in a separate plastic bag. Ask your local landfill if they have a paper waste composting program. This still helps you do your part to help the environment, though you won't enjoy the potential bonus of saving money on your grocery bill this way.

    Another option is to cut up and use old kitchen and bath towels in place of paper towels, or use cloth napkins at eating times. This requires a washing process but, can help save money and the environment.

    Using these easy ways to reduce, reuse and recycle paper towels or napkins will certainly be a step toward protecting Mother Earth from more waste.

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    References

    "Greening the Hill - Paper Towel Composting Program." http://www.parl.gc.ca/Information/About/Greenhill/communications/PaperTowel-e.asp?Language=E?Language=E

    "Solving the Paper Towel and Napkin Recycling Problem." http://www.knoxvillebusiness.com/solving-the-paper-towel-and-napkin-recycling-problem.html

    "Toilet Paper Roll Crafts for Kids." http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org/toiletpaperrollspapertowelrollsartscraftsideaskids.html