Can You Recycle Parchment Paper? (Don’t Make These Mistakes)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Parchment paper is a common item you might have in your household. Therefore, you possibly would like to know how to dispose of it or how to make it more environmentally friendly. 

So, continue reading to find out if parchment paper is recyclable and more!

Can You Recycle Parchment Paper?

You cannot recycle your parchment paper. Furthermore, parchment paper is not recyclable because it is coated in a layer of silicone. Silicone products are difficult to recycle, so you should reuse parchment paper or dispose of it in your compost (the thin layer of silicone will degrade) or in the garbage bin.

In this article, we’ll go into a more detailed explanation of why parchment paper cannot be recycled and how you can dispose of it so keep reading if you’d like to know more! 

How To Dispose Of Parchment Paper?

Parchment paper itself is not recyclable, but the box it comes in usually is. 

However, if the box comes with metal serrations, take those off since they are not recyclable.

Here’s a guide on how to dispose of your parchment paper:

Element: How to Dispose of: Why?
Parchment paper Throw away in the garbage or compost Coated with silicone that cannot be recycled
Parchment paper box Recycle or compost Made of cardboard with no coatings
Serrated strip of metal on box Throw away in the garbage Not recyclable in most areas
Parchment paper tube Recycle or compost Made of cardboard and can be recycled

Parchment paper is seldom recyclable. However, check your city or county recycling guidelines for specific details on how to dispose of parchment paper.

What Materials Is Parchment Paper Made Of?

Parchment paper has just a few main ingredients:

  • Cellulose: plant fiber used to make paper
  • Chlorine: bleach used in some parchment papers to make them white
  • Sulfuric acid: a coating that makes the paper heat-resistant
  • Silicone: a polymer used for a nonstick coating

Parchment paper is made of a typical cellulose (vegetable fibers) paper, similar to printer paper or notebook paper. 

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Furthermore, the paper is then sometimes dipped in a chlorine bath. This bleaches the paper and gives it a white color, where it was previously brown. 

It is then dipped in sulfuric acid, which prevents the paper from burning at high heat. 

Since the parchment paper is used for baking, it needs to have a nonstick coating; otherwise, cookies and other baked goods would stick to the surface of the paper. 

This is where the silicone comes in, and the paper is dipped in a liquid silicone mixture that gives it that soft, shiny, nonstick coating that makes it great for baking. 

However, silicone is the ingredient that prevents us from recycling parchment paper.

Is Parchment Paper Biodegradable?

Is Parchment Paper Biodegradable?

Although parchment paper is not recyclable, it is biodegradable. Take a look at this table to figure out if your parchment paper is compostable:

Type of Parchment Paper: Biodegradable Compostable
Bleached Yes Not recommended as the chlorine coating can leak into food and water supply.
Unbleached Yes Yes! Cut it into small pieces before composting.

A substance is considered biodegradable if it can break down on its own. Since parchment paper is made of plant matter, it is 100% biodegradable. 

However, if you have your own compost or if you use a compost service, it is not recommended that you compost bleached parchment paper. 

This is because, bleached parchment paper has been dipped in chlorine, and as it composts, it can leach this chlorine into our food and water supply. 

Furthermore, chlorine is harmful to human health, so if you are using bleached parchment paper, do not compost it.

Although, if your parchment paper is unbleached, it’s perfectly safe to compost. 

Some people even recommend cutting or tearing the parchment paper into small pieces so that it breaks down faster.

How To Reuse And Upcycle Parchment Paper

Reusing parchment paper for baking is both cost-effective and less wasteful and since it cannot be recycled, try to reuse your parchment paper as much as possible. 

  • If you are baking at around 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit, you can reuse your parchment paper up to three or four times
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If you are baking at over 400 degrees, the parchment paper may turn a deep brown color after you use it once or twice. 

Once it turns this color, it is beginning to slowly burn, and you should dispose of it. 

Additionally, parchment paper that has bits of food stuck to it should not be reused as these can burn in the oven and start a fire.

Furthermore, as long as your parchment paper is not dirty or dark brown, here are some extra things you can use it for after you’ve baked with it:

  • Use it as a sachet by filling it with aromatics, tying it with a string, and steeping it in broths or soups
  • Use it to store your food
  • Use it for muffin cups
  • Use it for crafting

Therefore, getting creative to reuse and upcycle your parchment paper is a great way to lessen your waste impact. 

Once you’ve reused the parchment paper, dispose of it either in the garbage or in your compost.

Is Parchment Paper Bad For The Environment?

The main reason that parchment paper is bad for the environment is that it contributes to landfills. Furthermore, parchment paper cannot be recycled so it is often thrown away.

Of the two types of parchment paper:

  • Bleached (white)
  • Unbleached (brown)

Bleached is worse for the environment than unbleached because it has chlorine which can be toxic to plants and animals and can contaminate water supplies as the paper degrades.

How To Make Parchment Paper More Sustainable

If you want to make parchment paper more sustainable, we recommend following these steps:

  • Buy unbleached parchment paper
  • Reuse the parchment paper at least once
  • Cut or tear the paper into strips and compost it
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If you follow these steps, you can lessen the impact of parchment paper on the environment.

What Are Some Alternatives To Parchment Paper?

The most environmentally harmful characteristic of parchment paper is that it can only be reused a few times. 

Therefore, if you want to lessen your impact on the environment, we recommend switching to a parchment paper alternative that you can reuse many times.

Here are some alternatives we recommend:

  • Silicone baking mats: These are a great alternative as they serve the same purpose of giving your pan a nonstick cover and making for easy cleanup. Baking mats can be reused thousands of times, so once you buy one, you might not need another for years to come. Since they can be reused, they have a much lower impact on the environment compared to parchment paper.
  • Cooking spray: You can use cooking spray on your pan instead of parchment paper to achieve a nonstick pan. This is a great alternative because it produces less waste.
  • Aluminum foil: Aluminum foil is a recyclable alternative to parchment paper, as long as you clean all the food off before you recycle it.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle juice boxes, whether you can recycle iPhones and other Apple products, and whether you can recycle gift bags.

Conclusion

Although parchment paper is not recyclable, there are several ways to make it more sustainable. We recommend buying unbleached parchment, reusing your paper, composting it if it’s unbleached, and lastly recycling the parchment paper box and tube

By following these steps you will help keep extra waste out of landfills. However, if you are looking for a reusable alternative to parchment paper, purchase a silicone baking mat that can be reused over and over!

Author

  • Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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