Millions of households have kitchen roll, made from absorbent paper to wipe up spills. Of course you could always sub with an old tea towel, but these ideas are even better. Mostly made from absorbent waffle cotton, they can be washed again and again after use with biodegradable laundry detergent (avoid fabric conditioner, as this will reduce absorbency). Whereas cheap disposable kitchen roll just falls apart (and the luxury thick versions take longer to break down in landfills), these are all zero waste and sold in plastic-free packaging. Use with biodegradable cleaning products (so you don’t pollute the oceans, when you wash them in the machine).
Over 27,000 trees are chopped down each day, just to paper kitchen roll and toilet paper. And used kitchen roll cannot be recycled, it has to go in the rubbish bin. Most paper towels are also bleached with chlorine, that emits methane gas at landfills, which contributes to climate change. And many brands of toilet roll and paper towels use trees from the Boreal Forest, home to a lot of endangered wildlife in the northern hemisphere (Scandinavia, Russia).
Mama Designs Unpaper Towels are made from the offcuts of pure cotton towels that would otherwise go to landfill. The pure cotton towels are made in the UK and come in a set of 6 (green, russet and petrol hummingbird print). One side has absorbent towelling, the other side plain cotton.
Butterfly Bug Kitchen Unpaper Towels are sold as 4, 8 or 12 squares of machine-washable towels, backed with cotton towelling for absorbency, and topped with a beautiful blue butterfly bug print. You can buy these without fastenings or have snaps to wrap around a kitchen towel holder, or buy a set with a bamboo dish brush and matching unsponge. These can also be used as reusable napkins for dinner. May shrink on first wash. Also in white, monstera plant, leopard jungle and whale.
These organic cotton ‘unpaper’ towels can be used to mop up kitchen spills, then just throw them in the laundry to use again. Made responsibly in India, each towel features a pretty mint leaf design, and there’s a hanging loop on one side. The weave is made on a dobby loom, which resembles a small woven patter that resembles diamonds or the eye of a bird. This weave helps to make the towels super-absorbent and good for wiping down surfaces. At end of use, these pads biodegrade in around 6 months in the compost bin.
Forest Friendly Paper Towels are made by a company that makes plastic-free bamboo and recycled bathroom tissue, and uses 50% of profits to help build clean toilets in developing countries. Each roll is a blend of bamboo and sugarcane, to handle spills and messes, from countertops to cubicles.
Dream Cloths are made by the same company. one part sponge, one part cloth (and three parts marvellous!), these are reusable and washable paper cloths to soak up spills or wipe down appliances and countertops. Designed to last around 50 machine washes, after use just toss in the compost bin. Dry naturally by hanging over the tap or sink, and lay flat on the counter. They are good to wipe marble, granite, tile and stainless steel.
Leave No Trace Reusable Cotton Kitchen Roll is handmade in the UK from highly absorbent organic cotton terry cloth in 4 colours (peach, mustard, sandalwood or navy). They are good to mop up spills. The 6 sheets come with poppers, to wrap around your kitchen roll holder (or for a few pounds, add a rubberwood kitchen roll holder).
Public Bathrooms (paper towels or hand dryers?)
If you are using a public bathroom, the general consensus is that it’s best to use the hand dryer. Paper towels are one of the last items to be made with paper, so the fibres are so short, they end up as ‘contaminated waste’, as they can’t be recycled again and often contain waste, so end up on landfills. They are also more unhygenic and expensive, and one of the major causes of blocked drains, due to people flushing them down the toilet. Tekflo makes eco-friendly hand dryers for offices, hotels etc. It has a built-in hygienic air filter and costs just £169. It’s easy to install, quiet and dries hands in just 9 seconds. Based on high footfall, it should last 5 years.
Tork PaperCircle is the world’s first paper towel recycling program. Offices basically just throw used paper towels in a separate bin, and collected by them to be recycled into new paper towels. You save money and carbon, as a result.