Plastic Free July Day 9: Paper Towels

reusable kitchen towels zero waste

(Back to the challenge summary)


Welcome to Week 2 of Fillgood and Zero Waste California Plastic Free July Challenge!

If you’ve missed Plastic Free On The Go last week, no worries, you’ll find a summary here.

This week we’ll talk about how to reduce plastic waste in the kitchen. And we’re starting with Paper Towels!

I think I know what you’re thinking right now: why paper towels? It’s not plastic, it’s compostable. I don’t see the link with Plastic Free July…

Paper Towels Facts

paper towel impact wwf

(source: WWF - Watch the Amazon go down in paper towels)

  • Paper towels are not made of plastic: of course, they are mostly made from trees but also from recycled paper.
  • Paper towels are compostable: true if you have access to home compost or city compost, and if you don’t use them with chemicals like toxic cleaning products. If composting is not an option, they end up in landfills because THEY CAN’T BE RECYCLED.
  • Paper towels come wrapped in plastic.
  • Printed paper towels are made with nasty inks and dyes, and sometimes even chemicals scents
  • People use A LOT of paper towels: 13 billion pounds each year in the US → 40 pounds, the equivalent of 80 rolls, per person, per year
  • Environmental impact in the US: producing all that paper consumes a lot of resources, including 110 million trees per year and 130 billion gallons of water. On top of that, you can add the energy to manufacture the paper towels and transport them from the factory to the store to your house and finally to the landfill or the composting facility.

GOOD NEWS: this disposable habit can easily be changed, I promise! My husband can testify: he freaked out when I said no more paper towels, now he tries to convince our friends to make the switch!

Not only will you save trees, energy and plastic, but you will also save money!


The solution: a good stack of kitchen towels and rags, that’s it.

kitchen towels rags zero waste

At home I have a small drawer full of kitchen towels (around 15) and a bag full of rags in my laundry room.

My rags are old stained cotton clothes, they cost me nothing.

I bought the kitchen towels over the years, some of them more than 10 years ago in my first apartment, some even belonged to my grandmother. I bet they can last at least 10 more years!

Once you have that, you just need a little bit of organization: one place for dirty kitchen towels (my laundry hamper) and another for dirty rags (I have a small basket in my laundry room).

I wash kitchen towels with bathroom towels and bedroom sheets. And I wash the rags separately, when the bucket is full. I usually rinse the dirtiest ones and let them dry outside before I put them back in the basket.

We’ve been doing that for 2 to 3 years. I know it seems complicated for many people, I heard that so many times in my workshops, but honestly that was really an easy switch for us so I’m convinced it can be done by anyone.

Still have doubts? Ask us your questions in the comments, Madison and I will be happy to help!

Last tip: reduce your paper towel consumption when you go out, with the SHAKE and FOLD method :-) Or carry a handkerchief in your purse, it’s even better.

Join the conversation!