Skip to content

Can Kitchen Roll Be Recycled & Is It Biodegradable?

    is kitchen roll recyclable

    If you use kitchen roll at home for wiping up spillages, cleaning and wrapping food, you’ll want to know if this common kitchen item can be recycled.  

    On its own, kitchen roll is highly recyclable. You would expect this as it’s made from paper. But there is quite a big kicker you need to be aware of when recycling kitchen roll. 

    It all depends on how you use it.

    According to many councils, used kitchen roll should go into the general waste bin. Not necessarily what you’d expect to hear.

    However, some facilities will accept small amounts of used kitchen roll in with the food waste and garden waste. 

    As you can see, it’s not as straightforward as you’d expect. Let’s take a closer look so you can understand the circumstances of how and when you can recycle kitchen roll.

    Is kitchen roll eco friendly or is it bad for the environment?

    To consider this question we first need to know what kitchen roll is made out 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
    • Bleach to make the paper white

    Whether kitchen roll is eco 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. 

    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. 

    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. 

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

    Can you recycle kitchen roll at home?

    Once it has been used, you generally can’t recycle kitchen roll. 

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

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

    This is mainly because it’s likely to have been contaminated with food, spillages and household cleaning products. Adding all this material to the paper and cardboard recycling facilities can cause problems. 

    The other reason 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, 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. 

    Something that can definitely be recycled is the inner cardboard tube of the kitchen roll. Add this to your paper and cardboard bin when you’ve finished the roll. 

    Is kitchen roll biodegradable and compostable?

    With recycling largely out of the window, we turn to see if kitchen roll will biodegrade naturally. And even more, if it is compostable, as composting kitchen roll would be a much better option for you and the environment. 

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

    If you have a green waste or food waste bin that gets collected by your local authority, you should be allowed to deposit a small amount of kitchen roll in there. This will then make its way to the industrial composter. 

    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! 

    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. 

    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. 

    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. While you’re here, take a look at the best eco-friendly toilet rolls

    Where to buy eco-friendly kitchen roll

    There a re plenty of online eco shops now selling kitchen roll made from recycled materials. Some of my eco favourite places to shop and online, and where you can get kitchen roll from include:

    Alternatives to standard kitchen roll

    1. Recycled kitchen roll – kitchen roll made from recycled materials comes with a lower carbon footprint. You can even get reusable kitchen roll now.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

    Wrap up on kitchen roll recycling and the environment

    So, kitchen roll may not be as recyclable as you first thought. It certainly wasn’t for me.

    Because of what it gets contaminated with, most kitchen roll is not recyclable. A saving grace is that you can compost some of your kitchen roll used on food – this is what I try and stick too.

    To be more sustainable, it may be worth looking at one of the kitchen roll alternatives above. Even buying recycled kitchen roll in non-plastic packaging is a great step in the right direction.

    Don't miss out!
    Join The Eco Life Newsletter!
    Invalid email address
    Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time. Check out the privacy policy.
    Never spam. Always education.

    Read more blogs for a more eco kitchen and home below…