People who compost look at household waste differently from other people!
Composters are constantly wondering if a waste product can be composted or if it should be discarded in the trash.
Parchment paper is a kitchen waste product that falls into this category.
After all, it comes from trees like other types of paper… Right?
So can it be composted, or should it be put in the trash?
Can You Compost Parchment Paper?
Some parchment paper can be composted, while other types are unsuitable for composting. Unbleached and unwaxed brown parchment paper is the best choice for inclusion in your compost pile. Chlorine bleached parchment paper and paper with an added waxy or silicon layer should not be composted.
Composting can become somewhat of an obsession for gardeners. We constantly consider the objects we normally discard in the trash and wonder if there is any value in comporting them.
There are some basic rules around items that should and shouldn’t be composted.
Items such as meat and dairy products should not be composted in most cases. Still, any product made from plant material could be fair game for the compost pile!
Which category does parchment paper fall into? And will it add any value to the final compost?
What Is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is a product with various names. Some people call it baking paper, waxed paper, greaseproof paper, and butter paper. It is smooth to the touch, feeling almost waxy.
They all basically have the same use.
Whatever your name for parchment paper, it is used for the same function in the kitchen. You place it in a baking dish before wet mixtures are put on top. It forms a layer between the dish and the baked goods, preventing them from sticking to the dish as it cooks.
This kind of paper is heat resistant and offers a non-stick alternative to spraying the dish with oil or greasing the dish with butter.
Parchment paper is produced by treating sheets of paper with sulfuric acid or, in some cases, zinc chloride. The acid partially dissolves some of the paper fibers, causing them to become gelatinous. The resulting paper from this treatment increases the paper’s heat, water, and grease resistance.
There are essentially two main types of parchment paper:
- brown parchment paper.
White parchment paper has had an additional treatment with bleach to whiten the paper, while the brown variety is unbleached.
Is Parchment Paper Biodegradable?
Since paper is a plant-based product, it would stand to reason that parchment paper is biodegradable and therefore compostable. All parchment paper is biodegradable, but not all parchment paper is good for the environment or your composting activity.
All parchment paper eventually breaks down since it is a plant-based product.
However, the chemicals used to treat the paper can have negative ecological consequences.
What Types Of Parchment Paper Can Be Composted?
Some bleached parchment paper has been treated with chlorine, which bleaches the paper fibers to produce the white color. Some chlorine bleach will remain in the paper and can have consequences for your compost pile.
Chlorine used as the bleaching agent releases dioxins as it breaks down, which can be harmful to the microbes in your compost pile, slowing down the composting process. The final compost will also contain dioxins which can be detrimental to plants fed with this compost.
Dioxins are problematic if they make their way into water supplies or food products and are known to cause health issues.
Some bleached parchment paper is compostable if chlorine is not used as the bleaching agent. The manufacturer should list the bleaching agent on the parchment paper and whether the paper is suitable for composting or not.
Other parchment paper is treated with a waxy substance, often a thin layer of silicone (which is where the name waxed paper is derived). Waxed parchment paper should not be composted since the microbes in the compost will not be able to break down the waxy layer, especially if it is silicone-based.
The best method to get around this issue is to use unbleached, unwaxed parchment paper in your kitchen. Choosing wisely will ensure your baking paper will be suitable for composting after use in the kitchen.
Compostable Parchment Paper Sheets
As more consumers become aware of health and environmental issues and how products impact the environment, they are placing additional pressure on manufacturers to produce environmentally friendly items.
This is good news for composters since it increases the compostability of our household waste!
For example, a product that I recommend is the ComfyLife Unbleached Pre-cut Parchment Paper Sheets (Amazon). No harmful chemicals are used to manufacture these sheets, making them safe to use in your compost.
If you are a frequent baker and require a larger volume of parchment paper, the Hiware Eco-Friendly Parchment Paper in a 200ft roll would be a good selection. (Amazon link)
How To Compost Parchment Paper
The main problem with composting parchment paper is the time it takes to break down. Parchment paper can take anywhere from 60 to 90 days to completely decompose, which is not ideal if you want to produce compost in 4 to 6 weeks.
The slow composting rate is due to the smooth layer on the paper presenting a barrier to the microbes in the compost. It takes time for the smooth layer to break down enough for the microbes to get to work.
The best method to aid the decomposition of parchment paper is to cut the paper up into smaller pieces, allowing the microbes easier access to the fibers and speeding up decomposition.
Breaking the paper down into smaller pieces can be done by putting the paper through a paper shredder.
This is also an excellent way to deal with other paper products and cardboard, so you have a source of carbon-rich brown materials ready for your compost heap.
This heavy-duty shredder is powerful enough to go through stacks of paper at a time. (Amazon)
Other more straightforward methods can be to tear it up into small pieces or cut it up with a pair of scissors.
If you enjoy producing your own compost at home, it makes perfect sense to select products for use in your home that can be recycled into good, healthy compost.
Unbleached, unwaxed parchment paper is a good choice for use in the kitchen and for composting the paper after baking!