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Can You Recycle Kitchen Roll & Is It Biodegradable? (Plus Best Options For Your Kitchen)

is kitchen roll recyclable

If you use kitchen roll at home for wiping up spillages, cleaning and wrapping food, you’ll might be asking the question – can you recycle kitchen roll?

On its own, yes kitchen roll is recyclable. It’s also biodegradable and some of it is compostable too.

But who buys kitchen roll and throws it away without using it? Absolutely no one.

When it comes to recycling kitchen roll, it all depends on how you use it and what you wipe up! Keep reading to find out all.

Can you recycle kitchen roll at home?

naked sprout unbleached kitchen roll 2
Unbleached kitchen roll from Naked Sprout

So, is kitchen roll recyclable? According to my local council, used kitchen roll should go into the general waste bin.

London, Wales and Scotland’s recycling bodies all say kitchen roll should not be recycled. 

So, as a general rule, you can’t recycle kitchen roll at home. 

Hmmm, not exactly what I wanted to hear. I bet it’s not what you wanted to hear either.

However, some facilities will accept small amounts of used kitchen roll in with the food waste and garden waste. This will then go to an industrial composter to be broken down into soil and feed back into the Earth. Composting is always a much better environmental alternative.

Why can’t you recycle kitchen roll?

This may be disappointing to hear. It certainly was for me. 

There are two reasons why kitchen roll can’t be recycled.

  1. Contaminated with non-recycled materials – The main reason that most kitchen roll can’t be recycled is because it’s been contaminated with food, spillages and household cleaning products. Adding all this material to the paper and cardboard recycling facilities can cause problems. 
  2. Already made from recycled paper – You might not be able to recycle kitchen roll at home is that it’s already made from recycled paper. 

Unlike materials that can be continuously recycled without a loss in quality – such as stainless steel, metal aluminium and glass for example – paper products lose integrity and quality upon each recycle. This is due to the fibres of the material which are broken down and become shorter when they are mulched at the recycling facility. 

In brighter news, something that can definitely be recycled is the inner tube of the kitchen roll. As this is made from cardboard, you can add this central tube to your paper and cardboard bin when you’ve finished the roll. 

Is kitchen roll biodegradable?

serious tissues kitchen roll

Ok, we shouldn’t really be putting kitchen roll in with our paper recycling.

As an alternative, is kitchen roll biodegradable instead?

Made almost entirely from plant fibres, kitchen roll is a fully biodegradable material. 

Again, as with recycling kitchen roll, it depends on how the roll is usd.

For example, if you’re spraying chemical-heavy cleaning products and wiping down, the biodegradability of kitchen roll may be impacted.

If kitchen roll is used with food waste, then yes it’s biodegradable.

Is kitchen roll compostable?

So, we know it’s biodegradable but is kitchen roll compostable too? Can kitchen roll go in food waste bin or with the garden waste?

The good news is that yes kitchen roll is compostable. If you have a green waste or food waste bin that gets collected by your local authority you can deposit a small amount of kitchen roll in there.

Your food waste and garden waste bin then make their way to an in-vessel composting facility (IVC). These are like a home compost pile but on a huge scale. 

How I compost my kitchen roll waste

compost logos on a compostable food waste caddy liner bag
Compostable food waste bag

I put kitchen roll that’s been used for food waste into my council food waste bin. I try to keep the kitchen roll food waste deposits roughly even to leafy green waste.

It’s important to note that you should only put kitchen roll in your food waste bin that has been used to clean up food products rather than any inorganic compounds (like chemical cleaners).

If you have a home compost pile, you can also compost kitchen roll here. Coming from brown tree fibres, kitchen roll is a high carbon source, as opposed to leafy greens. Rip the kitchen roll up into smaller pieces to speed up the decomposing process.

As any compost pile needs to be kept in a fine balance, you’ll only be able to add so much kitchen roll to your compost heap. Again, make sure no kitchen roll with cleaning product contamination is making its way to the composter. 

You can also add the inner cardboard tube to the compost pile. If you rip it up into smaller pieces first, it’ll biodegrade much faster. 

Is kitchen roll bad for the environment?

You might be considering this kitchen if you’re conscious about running a sustainable kitchen. To tackle this question we first need to know what is kitchen roll is made of. 

Most kitchen rolls are made from three main materials:

  • New paper or recycled paper – it can even be made from sustainable bamboo these days too
  • Cardboard inner tube – to wrap the paper around
  • Bleach – to make the paper white

Whether kitchen roll is environmentally friendly depends on how each of these parts are manufactured. For example, using recycled paper kitchen roll is much more eco friendly than using virgin plant fibres.

If you’re considering the environment, it’s not a sustainable move to cut down trees to make new kitchen roll. It’s better if the paper comes from sustainably managed forests and if tree planting occurs after, but it’s not ideal.

You also have to consider that kitchen roll is a single-use item. As you’ve read above, once kitchen roll has been used once, it usually has to go in the general waste bin. 

naked sprout unbleached kitchen roll
Unbleached kitchen roll from Naked Sprout

Bleached kitchen roll

There’s then also the bleaching aspect to give kitchen roll its white colour. Kitchen roll paper is bleached purely for the aesthetics and for no other real use. This is also true for similar items, such as coffee filter papers

The main chemical used to bleach kitchen roll is chlorine. This process requires the use of chemicals and lots of water, which isn’t great for the environment. You can learn more on how environmentally friendly bleach is here. 

Naked Sprout are a company who manufacture unbleached kitchen roll, as well as toilet roll. You can read my Naked Sprout review here.

Finally, kitchen roll tends to be packaged in plastic film. Plastic film is fossil-fuel based, intensive to make and notoriously difficult to recycle. A better option is to buy kitchen roll packaged in paper.

UK-based Serious Tissues do a good job using paper and cardboard boxes for all packaging. Read up on my Serious Tissues review here.

serious tissues cardboard 

Does kitchen roll contain plastic?

No, the kitchen roll itself doesn’t contain plastic. Or at least it shouldn’t anyway! 

As we’ve seen, kitchen roll is made from plant fibres (sometimes bleached, sometimes not) with a cardboard inner tube. 

However, most of the time you will find that plastic is used to package kitchen roll. 

It’d be much better if manufacturers could switch to paper-based packaging which could then be recycled at home. 

Can you flush kitchen roll down the toilet?

Kitchen roll is a much stronger product than toilet roll. It’s designed to be super absorbent so it can wipe up spillages without breaking down. 

So, can you put kitchen roll down the toilet? 

No, you definitely should not flush kitchen roll down the toilet. 

This is because you want whatever goes into the toilet to break down almost immediately. Kitchen roll will not break down as fast, meaning it will persist your pipes and the sewage network, potentially causing clogs and blockages. Not good. 

It’s for the same reasons why you should never flush wipes down the toilet! You can have a read of the best biodegradable baby wipes here.

The only thing that should be flushed down the toilet is toilet roll and eco friendly toilet cleaner. While you’re here, take a look at the best eco-friendly toilet rolls

Can I buy eco friendly kitchen roll?

naked sprout trial pack
Naked Sprout Trial Pack

Yes, you can get your hands on eco friendly kitchen roll!

There are plenty of online eco shops now selling eco kitchen roll that are made in a more environmentally friendly way and with a lower carbon footprint. This includes unbleached, with bamboo and those made from recycled fibres.

Some of my favourite places to shop online, and where you can get eco friendly kitchen roll from, include:

Other alternatives to standard kitchen paper

cheeky panda eco dry wipes

Alongside more eco friendly kitchen roll options, there are some great kitchen roll alternatives too.

  1. Reusable Kitchen Roll – Reusable kitchen roll is made from highly absorbent materials that can be machine washed (hopefully with eco detergent). Check out this reusable kitchen roll here.
  1. Reusable Cloths and Sponges – Now coming made from recycled materials, a reusable cloth can step in for single use kitchen roll on most jobs. You can even buy compostable sponges now which I’ve used and been really impressed by.
  1. Tea Towel / Kitchen Towel – The good old kitchen tea towel. Reusable, absorbent and known to do a tonne of jobs! You can get these made from 100% cotton. When they finally come to the end of their kitchen lives, there’s still plenty of use in the shed, garage and car for a used tea towel.
  1. Beeswax Wraps – If you use kitchen roll as a plate or to wrap food, try out beeswax wraps. These are made ethically and are highly reusable. I’ve been using mine for a number of months now.

Wrap up on kitchen roll recycling and the environment

Because of what it gets contaminated with and how it’s made, most kitchen roll is not recyclable. This is slightly counter-intuitive.

A saving grace is that kitchen roll is biodegradable and even better, you can compost some of your kitchen roll with food waste. This is what I try and stick too.

Kitchen roll is not particularly environmentally friendly. In fact it’s quite bad for the environment if it involves cutting trees down. It’s single use and comes with a carbon footprint.

To be more sustainable, it may be worth looking at one of the kitchen roll alternatives above or buying an unbleached version that’s packaged in plastic-free paper and cardboard.

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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home. Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.