unbaked cookies on parchment paper

Can You Compost Parchment Paper? Tips & Best Practices

At Home Mindful, we strive to reduce our environmental impact as much as we can. We also love cooking and baking, and you already know that parchment paper is indispensable for culinary endeavors. But is it eco-friendly? Can you compost parchment paper? And how can you do it at home? 

We’ll answer these questions and more below. We’ll delve into the parchment paper ingredients and see if we can use this kitchen staple to create nutrient-rich soil for our gardens. 

Let’s take another essential step toward responsible waste disposal together.

Environmental Impact of Parchment Paper

Like all everyday products we use, it’s worth exploring the environmental impact of parchment paper across its whole lifecycle — from production and use to proper disposal. Let’s see how each phase contributes to our overall footprint:

  • Production: Parchment paper is made of paper coated with silicone to give it our favorite non-stick properties. This process consumes resources such as energy, water, and chemicals. Also, getting paper fibers and manufacturing can contribute to deforestation, habitat loss, and water pollution stats, particularly if not managed sustainably.
  • Usage: While we often consider parchment paper a better alternative to other non-stick options, frequent use can still lead to waste generation. We tend to use parchment paper for single or limited applications before discarding it, contributing to the accumulation of waste in landfills. Plus, not all parchment paper is biodegradable.
  • Disposal: Disposing of parchment paper isn’t always straightforward. Many types are coated with silicone, which might hinder their decomposition. Also, if the parchment paper is contaminated with food residues, oils, or other substances, that can affect the composting process and the quality of the results.
  • Mindful Consumption: We can reduce the environmental impact of parchment paper through mindful consumption and proper disposal. Choosing parchment paper from sustainable sources and removing food residues before composting or recycling can contribute to reducing its overall footprint.

It’s crucial to understand that the environmental impact extends beyond disposal. By making informed choices and adopting sustainable practices, we can ensure that our use of parchment paper isn’t harming our planet.

Can You Compost Parchment Paper?

You can potentially compost parchment paper, but there are a few caveats. 

Parchment paper, which is also a type of baking paper, primarily consists of cellulose fibers that have been made heat- and grease-resistant. This process often involves applying a thin layer of silicone or other coatings. The paper itself is biodegradable and breaks down in natural environments. 

You can safely compost all parchment paper without silicone coating. But composting paper with that coating is a bit more complicated.

Let’s explore the details.

Does Paper Decompose?

Yes, paper decomposes naturally over time. It’s primarily made from biodegradable plant fibers, typically derived from trees. 

The rate of paper decomposition depends on the environment where it’s placed. In a suitable composting environment or in the presence of moisture and microbes, paper can break down relatively quickly. In contrast, dry or low-oxygen environments may slow down the decomposition process.

Note that in a landfill, paper decomposition can be significantly slower due to the lack of oxygen and limited microbial activity. Landfilled paper can take years, or even decades, to break down completely. That’s among the main disadvantages of biodegradable waste in landfills.

Is Silicone Compostable?

Silicone is unlikely to break down significantly over a reasonable period. Microorganisms in home or industrial composting systems have limited ability to break down its chemical bonds. As a result, silicone-coated materials generally persist in compost, potentially affecting its quality.

When it comes to composting parchment paper with a silicone coating, the paper itself may biodegrade over time, especially if you break it down into smaller pieces. However, the silicone coating is likely to remain largely intact, potentially leading to silicone fragments in the compost. So, the silicone fragments might remain in the soil if you use the compost for gardening or landscaping.

Some industrial composting facilities can handle parchment paper coated with silicone. They often have controlled conditions that can break down materials that might not decompose as easily in home composting systems. Still, even in industrial composting, the complete breakdown of silicone-coated materials isn’t guaranteed.

compost at home

How to Compost Parchment Paper at Home in 9 Steps

Composting parchment paper can be a sustainable way to divert waste from landfills and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Following these steps can ensure a successful composting process:

  1. Choose Silicone-Free Parchment Paper: Opt for parchment paper that’s free from silicone coatings. While paper fibers are biodegradable, silicone coatings can hinder the composting process and its final quality.
  2. Prepare the Parchment Paper: Before composting, make sure the parchment paper is clean and free from food residues, oils, or other contaminants. Shake or scrape off any excess debris to avoid attracting pests to your compost pile.
  3. Shred or Tear Into Small Pieces: To speed up decomposition, shred or tear the parchment paper into smaller pieces. This increases the surface area available for microorganisms to break down the paper fibers.
  4. Mix with Other Compostable Materials: Biodegradable parchment paper shouldn’t make up the bulk of your compost pile. Mix it with other compostable materials, such as kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds), yard waste (leaves, grass clippings), and other biodegradable items.
  5. Maintain Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio: A balanced compost pile requires a proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. Parchment paper is considered a carbon-rich (or “brown”) material. Ensure you have a good mix of nitrogen-rich (or “green”) materials, such as kitchen scraps, to maintain the right balance.
  6. Turn and Maintain Moisture: Regularly turn or mix your compost pile to aerate it and promote even decomposition. Keep the pile moist but not soggy. Adequate moisture helps microorganisms break down compostable materials.
  7. Monitor the Process: Observe your compost pile over time. If the compostable parchment paper is breaking down and becoming less recognizable, the composting process is going well.
  8. Be Patient: Composting is a gradual process. Depending on factors like environmental conditions, the parchment paper thickness, and the presence of coatings, it might take several months to a year for the paper to fully decompose.
  9. Consider Alternatives: If you’re unsure about composting parchment paper due to its silicone coating, consider alternatives such as recycling (if possible) or exploring industrial composting facilities that can handle it.

Remember that composting success can vary based on individual conditions, so experiment and adjust your approach.

Alternatives to Composting Parchment Paper

While adding parchment paper to compost might not always be straightforward due to its silicone coating, you can turn to practical alternatives to reduce waste, minimize your environmental impact, and make more mindful choices in your cooking adventures.

Resuing

You can reuse parchment paper, making it not only an environmentally friendly option but also a cost-effective one. Parchment paper can withstand heat and grease, making it durable enough for multiple uses without significantly diminishing its performance. Reusing is a practical way to reduce waste, save money, and promote sustainable living in the kitchen.

Best Practices for Reusing Parchment Paper

Follow these best practices to reuse your cooking paper as much as possible without affecting your cooking or baking:

  • Inspect and Clean: After each use, inspect the parchment paper for any remnants of food or grease. If it’s still in good condition and clean, you can reuse it.
  • Flatten and Store: Gently flatten the used parchment paper to remove any creases or wrinkles. Store it in a dry and clean place, such as a drawer or a container designated for reusable items.
  • Trim if Necessary: If the parchment paper has slightly burnt edges or excess grease stains, you can trim those parts before reusing it.
  • Avoid Cross-Contamination: If you’re reusing parchment paper for different types of foods (e.g., sweet and savory), consider using it for similar items to prevent flavor cross-contamination.
  • Be Mindful of Degradation: Over time, the color of parchment paper might change, and the paper might become more brittle, affecting its performance. Use your judgment to determine if it’s suitable for reuse.

While parchment paper is durable enough to reuse a few times, keep in mind that it won’t last indefinitely. Heat exposure and repeated use can gradually impact its quality.

Switching to a More Eco-Friendly Option

As much as we try to reuse what we can to reduce waste, buying silicone-coated parchment paper still adds to our waste generation. So, unless you switch to non-coated cooking paper and compost it diligently, it’s worth exploring a more eco-friendly alternative — silicone baking mats. 

You can use a silicone baking mat numerous times before you have to replace it. Yes, you’d still have to replace it at some point, but a silicone baking mat is less likely to tear, crumple, or become damaged compared to parchment paper. Plus, you can use it for kneading dough, rolling out pastry, and even as a surface protector when working with crafts or messy projects. Last but not least, investing in a silicone baking mat outweighs the cost of repeatedly purchasing uncoated parchment paper.

In short, silicone baking mats are a more sustainable alternative to parchment paper due to their reusability, reduced waste generation, longevity, and efficiency.

FAQ

Is All Paper Compostable?

No, not all paper is compostable. Uncoated and untreated paper, like newspaper and cardboard, is generally compostable. However, paper with coatings, such as glossy or waxed paper, and paper products with inks or chemicals might not readily break down in composting.

How Long Does Paper Take To Compost?

Uncoated paper, like newspaper, can break down in a few months to a year in a well-maintained compost pile. Coated or thicker papers may take longer — a year or more, depending on the environment.

Is Parchment Paper Bad for the Environment?

It is if you’re buying silicone-coated parchment paper and using it only once before throwing it away. But if you opt for uncoated paper and compost it, you’ll significantly reduce its environmental impact and contribute to sustainable practices. Alternatively, you can replace parchment paper with a silicone baking mat. 

Is Kirkland Parchment Paper Compostable?

Like many brands, Kirkland parchment paper has a silicone coating for non-stick properties. Due to this coating, you won’t be able to compost it effectively at home. Check with local composting facilities to see if they accept parchment paper with silicone coatings.

2 thoughts on “Can You Compost Parchment Paper? Tips & Best Practices”

  1. RE: Kirkland paper compostable:
    What does ‘often’ mean ?
    Either it does , or doesn’t.
    Can you cite any lab tests, and clarify?

    1. Hello Simon,

      Thank you for asking a question.

      We contacted Costco, and we can confirm that the Kirkland parchment paper is coated with silicone. This means that you won’t be able to compost it at home as the silicone won’t break down. The best you can do is to check if your local composting facilities accept silicone-coated parchment paper.

      Hope this helps. We also updated our answer in the article.

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