Are Paper Towels Bad for The Environment?

Are Paper Towels Bad for The Environment?


Paper towels are used widely all over the world. From cleaning spillage, drying hands, wiping dirty surfaces, and a lot more is done using paper towels. We all know that paper towels are made of paper, and paper is biodegradable. It makes us think that paper towel is environmentally friendly, cost-effective, convenient, disposable, and an amazing product. But today, we all will burst our myths and learn the impact of paper towels on our environment.

Paper towels seem to be a simple thing to manufacture, but the process is quite complex. The production of one ton of paper towels requires 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water approximately, and to fulfill the frequent usage throughout the year; it takes an entire woodland to be cut off. Now all of this has started to sound more serious! But sadly, there is a lot more to be analyzed.

Why Are Paper Towels Bad for The Environment?

It is now time to talk about all the negative impacts of paper towels on the environment.

Paper Towels Contribute to Global Warming

Before knowing the impact of the use of paper towels on the environment, we need to get familiar with the term carbon footprint.

What is Carbon Footprint?

Carbon footprint is a term given to the amount of carbon dioxide (or greenhouse gases) that is released into the atmosphere as a result of an activity.

What are greenhouse gases? And what is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is caused by gases that absorb and emit thermal infrared radiation. The Earth becomes much warmer as a result of this process.

What is the Carbon Footprint of a Paper Towel?

A paper towel has a small carbon footprint. Still, we can’t neglect that because the massive production makes a lot of carbon dioxide emissions collectively.

Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and when it’s produced in large volumes, it significantly contributes to raising the average temperature of the earth and eventually to global warming. This is how paper towels are playing a significant role in Global Warming.

Manufacturing of Paper Towels Leads to Deforestation

Deforestation is the process of cutting trees in large amounts and intentionally reducing the forested land or forest area. Industrialization, building houses and malls, old agricultural practices of exploiting land, and manufacturing of wooden and paper products are major causes of deforestation.

As we have discussed earlier, it takes up to 17 trees to manufacture just one ton of paper towels. Because of the enormous consumption of paper towels on a daily basis, a vast number of trees are being chopped off daily.

The rate of cutting trees to the ratio of growing them back is huge. Hence the production of paper towels is one of the significant contributors to deforestation.

Reduction of Natural Resources

Our planet earth is 71% water, but only 3% of it is fresh water and suitable for drinking. It is heartbreaking to see the wastage of freshwater in our day-to-day life.

We are familiar that the production of paper towels takes up a massive amount of freshwater. Further, as the production of paper towels is huge, it adds up to the amount of freshwater usage and hence reducing and over exploiting our natural resources. If this process continued, we would have a hard time searching for drinking water.

Pollution During Manufacturing

The manufacturing process of paper towels is also a contributor to initiating pollution in our ecosystem.

  • Industrial waste produced while manufacturing paper towels is directly disposed into water bodies leading to water pollution.
  • While manufacturing paper, there is a lot of carbon dioxide emission, which leads up to air pollution.

Disposing of used Paper Towels leads to Waste Management Problems

We all are aware of the fact that paper towel is biodegradable. On average, a paper towel takes 2 – 4 weeks to decompose. Since there is frequent use of paper towels, the volume of waste generated is very large. Hence it makes up 254 million tons of discarded paper towel waste every year.

Since there is a huge amount of waste generated because of paper towels, there is dumping of waste in open areas and sometimes landfills. Sometimes paper towels have cleansing substances associated with them. These chemicals can contribute to soil pollution as well. Keeping it aside, dumped waste leads to mosquito breeding and is a house to many diseases.

How Bad Are Paper Towels for The Environment?

Paper towels are really a bad product if we consider the environment. All the harmful impacts of using paper towels are:

  • Gives huge engagement to the depletion of natural resources.
  • Contributes to air, water, and soil pollution.
  • Generation of an enormous amount of unmanageable waste.
  • A major cause of the production of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Alternatives of Paper Towel

Because of the frequent usage of paper towels, we might feel that it is almost impossible to give up on paper towels. But it is a lot easier, and various alternatives are less harmful to the environment in comparison to paper towels.

A few of these cost effective alternatives that we can find in our daily lives are:

  • Sponges – Sponges can be a replacement for paper towels to clean spillage and dry up wet surfaces.
  • Cotton cloth or napkins – Maintaining cotton cloths to clean spillage, dry up, wipe hands and soak up extra oil is a household practice in most middle-class families.
  • Old Newspapers– Newspapers can be an excellent alternative when it comes to cleaning the spillage of water. Many hostlers and bachelors use this method to save some extra bucks.
  • Old T-shirts or rags – Clothes that are in a bad state and are to be disposed of can be used to wipe windows and surfaces. They can also be used to clean spillage.

Also, few companies have realized this issue and have started manufacturing environment-friendly paper or non-paper towels; hence it becomes easier to contribute to saving the environment. Names of those companies’ paper towels are:

  • Marley’s Monsters Vintage Lemons Rolled Unpaper TowelsSeventh Generation Paper Towel.
  • Grove Co. Tree-Free Reusable Paper Towels – 100% Bamboo.
  • Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels.
  • Marley’s Monsters Rainbow Rolled Unpaper Towels.

After considering all the up given points, we can conclude that, yes, paper towels are bad for the environment, and we should take the initiative to avoid using them. We must switch to an environmentally friendly alternative. Not only in the case of paper towels but in almost all the products we use, we should look for the broader picture and think if those products are safe for our environment or not. Humankind has already done a lot of harm to nature; now it is time to realize to conserve for the good of everyone.

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