Is filter paper biodegradable? (7 types of filter papers)

This blog article shall answer the question, “is filter paper biodegradable?”.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • Components of filter paper material.
  • Types of filter papers.
  • Applications of filter papers.
  • Eco-friendliness of filter papers.

Is filter paper biodegradable?

Yes, filter paper is biodegradable because it is obtained from paper pulps of different types of trees.

Paper pulps are naturally occurring, organic materials that are easily broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.

The pulps can be obtained from softwood, hardwood, fiber crops, and mineral fibers. The pulps material for the filter paper depends on the purpose of the filter paper.


Biodegradation is the process by which naturally occurring organic materials are broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi into small particles which are not harmful to the environment.

Biodegradation is carried out by different agents such as UV radiation, light, wind, and water but the most effective agents of biodegradation are bacteria and fungi.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and assimilation.

The biodeterioration process loosens up the structure of the organic substance. For instance, the cell wall of plants is weakened by light, wind, water, and UV radiation.

Bio-fragmentation involves the breakdown of organic matter into smaller, nontoxic particles by bacteria and fungi, releasing water and carbon dioxide in the process.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation and it involves the microorganisms taking up the products of bio-fragmentation into their biological machinery to be used to make energy.

Biodegradation can either involve the microorganisms using oxygen, aerobic biodegradation or it can involve the microorganisms which do not use oxygen, anaerobic biodegradation.

What is filter paper?

A filter paper is a semi-permeable barrier that is used to separate fine solid materials from liquids or gases.

The filter paper is made from different types of plants that include:

  • Softwood.
  • Hardwoods.
  • Fiber crops.


This is a type of wood derived from the trees in the class Gymnospermae; these are non-flowering tree species.

Softwood structure contains resin canals but they lack pores, which are usually found in hardwood.

The word ‘softwood’ may be misleading because there are those trees categorized as softwood but are harder than some of the trees in the hardwood category.

They are the most commonly used trees in the construction industry, and also they are the ones commonly used to produce paper pulps.

Some softwoods are resistant to insect attacks from woodworm because some insects prefer damp hardwood.

The following are examples of softwood trees and their uses.

  • Larch tree: it is used for boats and cladding.
  • Southern yellow pine: used for joinery, flooring, and decking.
  • Western hemlock: Used in making doors, joinery, and furniture.
  • Yew: it is used in interior and exterior furniture like chairs, gate posts, and woodturning.
  • Western red cedar: it is used for furniture, decking, cladding, and roof shingles.
  • Scots pine: it is mostly used in the construction industry for interior work.
  • Lodgepole pine: it is used for roofing, flooring, and in making of chipboard.
  • European spruce: it is used for construction, paneling, and cladding.
  • Eastern white pine: used for furniture.
  • Douglas fir: it is used for doors, joinery, and heavy construction.
  • Parana pine: used to make joinery and treads.


This wood is derived from trees in class Angiospermae; trees that can produce flowers.

The trees in temperate latitudes are usually deciduous; they shed their leaves in extreme weather conditions like during winter.

The trees in tropical areas like in congo and amazon basins are usually evergreen; the opposite of deciduous. They never shed off their leaves.

The hardwood trees contain pores but lack resin canals.

They contain annual growth rings, and in botany, these rings are usually used to estimate the age of the trees, the assumption being that every ring represents a year of growth.

They are more complex than softwoods, they have a slower growth rate, with some trees taking many years to mature. 

The hardwoods show a degree of variation in hardness, some trees such as yew are very hard, while others like balsa are softer than some trees in the softwood category.

Hardwoods are mainly made up of cellulose, lignin, and Hemicellulose. The lignin in hardwood differs from that in softwood, hardwood lignin is made up of sinapyl alcohol and coniferyl alcohol monomers.

Different hardwoods have different characteristics of density, grains, pore size, growth and fiber pattern, and flexibility.

Fiber crops.

These are crops grown for their fibers. The fibers are used to make paper pulp for paper. The fiber is harvested from the phloem tissues of plants.

They have a concentration of cellulose, and they are preferred over trees because of their fast growth.

The fibers can be chemically modified to improve their efficiency.

Best fiber crops include jute, beans, flax, Indian hemp, hoop vine kenaf, nettles, papyrus, sisal, cotton, milkweed,l Ruffa and yucca.

How is filter paper improved?

To improve the quality of filter papers, the wood pulp containing high cellulose content is used. This pulp is called dissolving pulp. 

Another way of improving the filter paper quality is by using mercerized pulp. This is wood pulp that has been treated with ha to and diluted alkali such as sodium hydroxide.

The treatment of pulp with alkali removes the Hemicellulose polymers from the pulp, leaving only the cellulose. This makes the pulp more pure and durable.

Applications of hardwood.

The following are the applications of hardwood.

  • They are used in joinery.
  • Used in the construction industry.
  • They are used as a source of fuel, like in the burning of charcoal.
  • They are used in making musical instruments.
  • They are used in flooring.
  • They are the preferred source of fire for cooking because of their density and calorie volume and hence burn hotter and longer.

It is worth noting that due to over exploitation of hardwood trees, there is a danger of extinction to some species.

Trees such as Meru oak, Burma teak, mahogany, cherry, and apple have been highly exploited. 

Efforts are underway to protect them and in some countries like Kenya, the use of hardwood such as Meru oak has been banned.

What are the types of filter papers?

There are different types of filter papers, depending on the type of material used to make them or the purpose meant for it.

The different types include:

  • Air filters: used for combustion air to the engine.
  • Fuel filters: they are made from a mixture of hardwood and softwood. They have controlled porosity.
  • Horizontal plate filters: these are used in industrial processes.
  • Oil filters: they are used to purify engine oils. The papers are impregnated to improve resistance.
  • Coffee and tea filter paper: these are used in filtering tea and coffee beverages, tea bags are examples of filter paper.

Some filter papers are designed specifically for laboratory uses. They include the following:

  • Qualitative filter papers: they are used in qualitative analysis to determine the quality of different materials in a mixture. These filter papers occur in different grades, depending on pore sizes.
  • Quantitative filter paper: these are used for gravimetric and quantitative analysis to determine the number of materials in a mixture.
  • Extraction thimbles: these are rod-shaped filter papers that are used in soxhlet extractions of substances such as aromatic compounds from medicinal trees.
  • Glass fiber filters: used to purify highly contaminated or difficult to filter solutions.
  • Quartz fiber filters are filters with high resistance to nitrates and sulfate dioxides and are therefore used in the analysis of air pollution.
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) filter papers are used in a wide range of temperatures and they are suitable for use in autoclaves.

Is filter paper eco-friendly?

Yes, filter papers are eco-friendly because they can be degraded by microorganisms to reduce their pollution of the environment.

According to a study, Filter papers can also be used in compost because they are highly compostable.

They are highly recyclable when taken to the recycling industries. At home, the filter papers can be recycled by using them for other purposes such as fuel.


This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of filter papers.

It has also looked into other areas such as:

  • Types of filter papers.
  • Different sources of wood pulp.
  • Types of laboratory filter papers.
  • Types of hardwood and softwood.
  • Eco-friendliness of filter paper.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is filter paper biodegradable?

Can I put coffee filters in food waste?

Yes, coffee filters are 100% biodegradable. The materials used are disposable and can therefore be put into food waste since they will eventually break down.

Are coffee filter papers compostable?

Yes, coffee filters are compostable because they can be completely broken down by microorganisms into small biomass that is nontoxic to the environment.

Is filter paper good for the environment?

Yes, filter paper is good for the environment because it does not pollute the environment. The waste filter papers should however be disposed of properly to avoid the accumulation of litter in the environment.


Ayon Das Mahapatra and Durga Basak (April 29, 2021). Biodegradable Filter Paper-BasedBroad-Band Photodetection by Chemical Bath Deposited SnS2 2D-Nanosheet Array Film. 2114–2122

Retrieved from:

Paulapuro, Hannu (2000). “5”. Paper and Board grades. Papermaking Science and Technology. Vol. 18. Finland: Fapet Oy. p. 114

Boerjan, Wout; Ralph, John; Baucher, Marie (June 2003). “lignin biosynthesis. Annual Review of Plant Biology. 54 (1): 519–546. doi:10.1146/annurev.arplant.54.031902.13493

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