can you recycle tissues?

In this article, we discuss whether tissue papers can be recycled once they have been used. Additionally, we also discuss what to do with used tissue papers.

Can you recycle tissues?

No, you cannot recycle tissue papers. Tissue paper (even 100 percent virgin tissue paper) is a low-grade product, making it difficult for recyclers or MRFs (materials recovery facilities) to find clients.

Furthermore, they cannot be “cleaned” during the recycling process since they come into contact with food wastes, greases, and perhaps body fluids, and should not be mixed with other “clean” paper waste such as magazines and copy paper.

Because most tissue papers are made from recycled paper, they have most likely been recycled. As a result, tissue sheets have a low fibre content. 

Attempting to recycle tissue sheets will simply result in a lower fibre content, rendering them useless.

We have a number of goods that we find really handy. Tissue paper, along with such goods, is something we can’t live without. 

We have tissue papers in our rooms, restrooms, baggage, automobiles, and offices, to name a few places. They are always useful, and we will continue to use them.

Tissue paper, like all other papers, is technically recyclable. It may be retracted and reformed into a different type of paper.

To accept an item for recycling, a municipality or waste management provider must have the infrastructure to sort the material and viable markets to sell it into.

Paper is suspended in water at recycling plants before being pressed into sheets to dry. The pollutants on old tissue sheets might destroy the entire recyclables by showing up as holes or stains in the initial recycling phase.

Tissue paper recycling may also be a very unpleasant procedure for recyclers who have to sort it out first. 

Furthermore, old tissue papers may be unpleasant, and no one wants to come into contact with this unpleasant trash, especially in the current covid pandemic where the disease can spread by coming in contact with infected articles.

As a result, many recyclers refuse to take tissue paper (even if the tissue paper is labelled as recyclable). Therefore, tissue paper is hard to recycle, even if the manufacturing company says so.

What to do with tissue papers?

Once a tissue paper has served its purpose, it would be advisable to dispose of it in a safe manner. Amongst the various disposal methods, some of those which are commonly used for tissue papers are:

  • Flushing
  • Compost
  • Biodegradation

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Flushing

When toilet paper is flushed, 95% of it dissolves, but 5% congeals into a sludge that can clog pipes and cause pipe damage, as well as slipping through the cleaning process.

The only thing you should flush is toilet paper. Flushable items include tampons, napkins, paper towels, and “disposable wipes.”

Over time, older sewer systems break down, and heavy pipe buildup becomes costly. While flushing is the most convenient option, it is not usually the most effective.

Compost

Compost materials are biodegradable materials. They can be broken down by microorganisms. As a result, they may decompose; once decomposed, they produce compost or soil fertiliser. 

When biodegradable items are stacked on top of one another in a compost pile, they decompose over time and enrich the soil.

Tissue paper may be composted. Tissue paper can be decomposed both at compost facilities and at home, which is a unique feature. Tissue paper absorbs the extra moisture that bioplastics and food waste produce.

Tissue paper’s composting or disintegration pace is accelerated by absorbing excess moisture created by food wastes and bioplastics. As a result, composting tissue paper is an efficient technique to reduce pollution.

When additives are used in the tissue paper manufacturing process, however, the composting process takes longer than typical. Composting tissue papers requires consideration of environmental elements such as air, light exposure, and humidity.

You’ll note that the majority of tissue papers are plastic-wrapped. It takes a long time for plastic wrap to disintegrate once it has been discarded. 

As a result, plastic wraps around tissue papers may take a long time to biodegrade or break down into their chemical forms. Long after the tissue paper has disintegrated, it jams up landfills and litters the environment.

To guarantee that tissue papers decompose completely, make sure they don’t have any glitter, foil, or glossy coating on them. These can function as poisons, slowing down the disintegration of tissue paper and possibly preventing it from decomposing for a long period.

The greatest thing you can do is make certain that all of the tissue you buy is biodegradable. Because these tissue sheets are biodegradable, you will be helping to safeguard and improve the environment.

Biodegradation

Biodegradable materials are those that can be easily broken down by microbes and bacteria. As can be seen, nature has a way of looking after itself. 

Our activities, on the other hand, endanger the safety of our ecosystem. So, how biodegradable is tissue paper?

Tissue paper is, in fact, biodegradable. Paper pulp is obtained from trees and used to make tissue paper. Because they’re all organic, degradation agents can break them down (bacteria and microorganisms.)

Tissue paper, on the other hand, degrades in different ways. Remember that tissue paper comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and it’s made from a variety of materials. 

As a result, raw materials play a critical role in the decomposition of tissue sheets. The tissue paper may not biodegrade if it is coated with other materials, especially if it is not formed from organic ingredients.

Tissue paper covered in plastic, for example, will not disintegrate due to the plastic. Microorganisms that would have broken down the tissue paper are repelled by the chemicals in the plastic.

Tissue takes around a month (30 days) to disintegrate on average. However, it may take longer, and it is dependent on a number of things.

The thickness of the tissue paper, the environmental conditions it is exposed to, and the amount of water available all influence how long it takes for tissue paper to disintegrate.

Things to Consider When Disposing Toilet Paper

There are certain things one should keep in mind when it comes to disposing of used tissue papers. Some of these are:

  • Quantity
  • Type of paper
  • Age of sewer system

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Quantity

Use as little toilet paper as possible while flushing to avoid clogging the toilet or sewage system. Bulk paper can collect and become trapped, resulting in damage and a mess.

Large volumes of paper take longer to decompose, causing it to accumulate in pipes and making it harder to get smaller pieces through.

Most people, it turns out, use a lot of toilet paper. Knowing how much toilet paper to use, on the other hand, might be difficult. Men, on the other hand, consume nearly half as much as women. People flush the toilet 2,500 times each year on average.

On average, males use one roll of two-ply toilet paper each month, whereas women use about one per week.

Type of paper

The sort of toilet paper you use is also important. Toilet paper that is heavy-duty or multi-ply takes longer to disintegrate and gathers in sewage systems. The single-ply paper will break down considerably faster and protect the pipes.

Depending on how the fabrics are stitched together, some brands have different materials and disintegrate faster.

There are alternatives for toilet paper manufactured from recycled materials, as well as recyclable ones. Flushable wipes, on the other hand, are not the same as toilet paper and should never be flushed.

Lastly, tissue paper made with additives should not be mixed with composting, as not only will it take time for the tissue to break down, it can also cause a longer time for other substances to break down.

Age of sewer system

Pipes from the past were smaller and constructed of materials that degraded with time. If your sewer system is ancient, it may be worthwhile to consider upgrading the pipes with modern materials.

Paper and garbage become stuck in broken pipes, and if non-paper things were flushed as well, they can back up into your home.

Newer systems are significantly less prone to have problems with clogged pipes. Waste and paper products are more readily passed through.

Conclusion

Tissue paper, like all other papers, is technically recyclable. It may be retracted and reformed into a different type of paper.

However, tissue paper (even 100 percent virgin tissue paper) is a low-grade product, making it difficult for recyclers or MRFs (materials recovery facilities) to find clients.

Furthermore, they cannot be “cleaned” during the recycling process since they come into contact with food wastes, greases, and perhaps body fluids, and should not be mixed with other “clean” paper waste such as magazines and copy paper.

Once a tissue paper has served its purpose, it would be advisable to dispose of it in a safe manner. Amongst the various disposal methods, some of those which are commonly used for tissue papers are: Flushing, Compost, and Biodegradation.

When disposing of tissue papers, one should consider the quantity of tissue paper, the type of paper used for making the tissue, and lastly, if the sewer system of their municipality can handle the load of toilet wipes.

FAQs

Can you put used Kleenex in compost?

Yes, you can put Kleenex tissue papers in the compost, provided that they are clean and sanitary. For tissue paper that has been used for wiping of body fluids, there are chances that they may contain pathogenic microorganisms, which can in turn contaminate the entire compost, thereby making it unfeasible for use in gardening and other related activities.

Is tissue bad for the environment?

If you’re wondering whether tissue paper has an influence on the environment, the answer is yes. 

Despite the fact that tissue papers are created from both virgin pulp and recycled waste paper, the manufacturing of tissue papers from virgin pulp produces 30% more greenhouse gases than the production of tissue papers from recycled waste paper.

A single roll of toilet paper is estimated to need around 140 gallons of water to create. Worse, chlorine is used to bleach the pulp to make it seem white, and other chemicals are added to make it soft, all of which pollutes local water sources.

Aside from that, where does virgin pulp originate from?The answer is all the way from the forest by chopping the trees and transportation also emits carbon dioxide gas.

What are some alternatives for tissue papers?

For tissue papers that are used for wiping body fluids such as sweat, mucous, and so on, handkerchiefs or cloth wipes are the best alternative, since they can be washed regularly and reused as long as they are functional.

For toilet wipes in the bathroom, one can install a water bidet, which consumes an infinitesimal amount of water and cause less pollution than toilet wipes.

Reference

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