Are Toilet Paper Rolls Compostable?

As many of us set out to reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill, a quick audit of regularly used items reveals that toilet paper rolls go fast. Depending on the size of your family and their diet, you may go through one or more rolls a day, even if 1 roll equals 16.  With all this potential trash, you have to stop and ask yourself, can toilet paper rolls be recycled and composted? 

While the simple answer is yes, they can; full info about how to and which is the better way to dispose of them should be explored more below. There are considerations as to what should be added to the toilet paper rolls to balance the dry materials and also whether any harmful bacteria can be transmitted to your plants. To fully understand if toilet paper rolls are composted, continue below. 

Do Toilet Paper Rolls Break Down in a Compost Pile?

Toilet paper rolls are cardboard and made of plant materials and are therefore suitable for recycling and adding to the compost pile. cardboard tubes are best composted as they will add valuable carbon to your compost and help with soil structure. Wet cardboard items can be composted, but they are not recommended for recycling. 

When tossing a toilet paper roll, make sure to rip it or cut it up to help it break down faster; otherwise, it could take several months to return to the soil. To avoid unwanted pests, make sure the roll of toilet paper is clean and not carrying any biological materials. If cardboard products are wet, they can still be composted; just make sure it is only water and no harmful chemicals or bodily fluids. 

Are Toilet Paper Rolls Green or Brown Material in Compost?

The most important part of the composting process is to get the correct ratio of nitrogen and carbon to kick decomposition off. When figuring out what materials are made of brown compostable items and green materials are usually the two options. Unlike with recycling, kitchen scraps and other wet materials can be added to the bin, and these are often green. Check out the chart below to see where rolls of toilet paper stand as well as other common household waste products. 

Toilet Paper RollX 
Fruit Peels X
Saw DustX 
Aquarium Gunk X
Grass Clippings X
Paper Towel RollX 
Veggie Scraps X
Dead LeavesX 
Coffee Grounds X

Brown Materials

Any recyclable item outside of single-use plastic items and plastic bottles can usually be composted as a brown material. Healthy compost needs paper bags, paper cupcake holders, paper egg cartons, paper napkins, paper plates, and the humble toilet paper roll to build better soil structure and improve moisture retention. Letting brown materials return to lovely compost is a better alternative to recycling and less polluting than the process of recycling. 

Green Materials

Green items from the kitchen and planet-friendly items from around the house and yard can be added to the greens bin and put in the compost heap. Used coffee grounds, veggie scraps, and fruit peels are also great additions to compost bins. Greens in the compost pail add more nutrients and provide the nitrogen needed for the decomposition process. Mixing green and brown materials results in the best aerobic conditions and a cleaner biodegradation process.

Can Toilet Paper Tubes be Harmful to Compost?

While soft, high-quality toilet paper will not harm your compost on its own, there are certain conditions where toilet paper and its rolls may cause issues. Most of the time, rolls that will be composted should be stored away from contact with water and other bathroom fluids. If any of these environmental conditions have occurred near your rolls, maybe skip the compost and dispose of it in the trash bin

Toilet Paper Rolls

Biological Waste

While human fluids will break down naturally in a compost pile, they can attract unwanted pests, have strong odors, and potentially transfer pathogens to your garden beds. To avoid these unfortunate conditions, store the cardboard rolls away from used tissues and out of the main trash can. If the rolls make contact with any waste products, dispose of them in the household trash to avoid spreading diseases. 

Harmful Chemicals

Bleach, harsh chemicals, or excessive chemicals can all affect a compost pile. If your tubes have sopped up spilled bathroom cleaners, it is not safe to add to the compost. Even if you rinse it, there is a good chance the chemicals will leech out into the compost and negatively impact soil microbes and worms. Carefully clean up all chemical spills and dispose of the solid paper roll in the bathroom trash. 

Dirty or Moldy

Sometimes toilet paper in storage isn’t used for a while. Maybe you hoarded a bunch and didn’t need it, or there was a Costco deal you couldn’t ignore; either way, sometimes toilet paper gets old and moldy. Mold on fresh food is different than the potential molds that grow in storage, and this is an indication you should clean your storage. Make sure to dispose of moldy, mouse-infested, or dirty toilet paper rolls in sealed trash bags immediately. 

Steps to Composting TP Rolls

Usually, the one or two rolls we get rid of each day are not enough to warrant extra steps to prepare. Tearing or tossing in the compost is fine, but what if you have a ton of toilet paper rolls from a crafts project like paper mache. Or maybe your house got TPed; either way, you are gonna need to take a few minutes to get them ready in mass.

Cut or Rip the Rolls 

Get the rolls together and cut or rip them until you have a pile of shredded cardboard pieces. If ripping the whole thing is too hard, you can break them and then lay a bunch out flat and cut into ribbons together. This can be used for mulch in potted plants as well.

Soak the Rolls

Put the thin slices of cardboard rolls into water and allow them to soak in all the moisture and sink. Toilet paper rolls with wax may take longer to absorb the water but will still benefit from soaking for several minutes. When it’s done, you can add the rest of the water to the compost.

Spread Evenly

After you pour out the water, toss the thin, wet strips around the bin or compost and make an even layer. If you dump the whole batch in one spot, it will clump together and could form an anaerobic zone that might stink and not break down correctly. Break up any clumps when you start as you start to mix.

Mix Thoroughly

Using a shovel or garden trowel, mix the layer of paper into the existing compost so that the soil covers it and no big clumps of paper are stuck in the same part of the pit. Keep mixing to bring up the deeper hungrier soil microbes and increase aeration throughout the pile. 

Add Green Materials

Add a layer of green materials to increase the nitrogen content and feed the bacteria that will break down the cardboard. The more nitrogen you put in, the faster the microbes will grow, but they need a balance of food sources from carbon to sustain the growth. Chopped up green materials can be incorporated into the pile better than large chunks. 

Mix Again 

Once all the ingredients have been added together, mix the compost another time to get everything separated and into suitable conditions for decomposition. Add more moisture if needed and mix until a light odor of decay comes off. Mix every couple of days and add moisture as needed to speed up your composing processes.