Composting is not simple and a lot of questions may arise, particularly when it comes to casting materials into your pile. We know that composting is one of the most impactful ways to reduce global waste, but not everything should be composted.
Uncompostable materials can generate all sorts of bad effects. Some may cause your pile to reek and attract pests, others may kill the decomposing microbes, while others may contaminate your compost with toxic compounds that harm the soil beneath it.
Of course, there are also materials like plastic that do not break down in compost.
That being said, we know that certain types of paper are compostable, but what about parchment paper – can you cast it in your compost pile without harm?
In this article, we’re going to look at this issue in detail, so that you can more easily make a decision when choosing what to compost in the future.
Is parchment paper compostable?
Parchment paper is a popular disposable item that is versatile and easy to use and comes up in every cookbook in recipes that require you to use the oven.
However, it’s important to understand that parchment paper is not like regular paper.
Parchment paper is a heavy-duty grease and moisture resistant paper that is used in baking and cooking due to its heat-resistant and non-stick properties.
It is made from paper that is treated with acid during production to give it stability and heat resistance. Additionally, it is also coated in a non-stick material like silicon, which eliminates the need for greasing cookie sheets when you put the piece of parchment paper down before you portion out the cookie dough.
Parchment paper is not compostable – specifically because of the processes it goes through during production that increase the material’s overall resistance, making it extremely difficult to break down through natural decomposition. Not to mention the fact it is coated with silicone – an extremely durable material that doesn’t break down into smaller pieces, unless it is recycled following certain guidelines.
Unless recycled, silicon will stay for hundreds of years on our planet, before it starts to break down, which means composting products with silicon is not the way to go.
Does compostable parchment paper exist?
Even though we have looked at what makes parchment paper a material that is unable to be decomposed in regular compost piles, some companies actually claim that their parchment paper is compostable.
Companies like Raynolds and If You Care apparently sell FSC Certified and compostable parchment paper. Raynolds’ parchment paper (which happens to be available on Amazon) is chlorine-free and made from 75% unbleached fibers.
It turns out they use a parchmentizing process to fuse woven wood pulp fibers together to create natural, grease-proof, non-stick paper, which can only be composted in commercial facilities, but nevertheless.
Commercial composting facilities provide the right composting conditions to break down certain materials, including the ability to:
- Regularly aerate their piles and monitor the internal temperature to ensure it’s always between 105º and 145º F.
- Properly regulate airflow to ensure the microbes always have enough oxygen to survive and reproduce.
- Constantly monitor the moisture content of their piles, so that they can always add more if necessary since microbes also need adequate moisture levels to survive.
These conditions can’t always be guaranteed at home, in a DIY compost pile. However, If You Care’s parchment paper (also on Amazon) is one that you can shred into pieces and throw in your compost pile at home, according to the manufacturer. This parchment paper is also made from unbleached chlorine-free (TCF) greaseproof paper, which means it won’t bond with organic matter in the form of dioxins, something that is incredibly toxic for the environment and would also have the same effect on your pile.
If You Care’s products have the above certifications, which means they can be composted in municipal composting facilities and also in your backyard. To be more specific, these certificates are based on several standards, including the European standard EN 13432 whose requirements defend that compostable materials must disintegrate after 12 weeks and completely biodegrade after six months.
Considering the smaller amount of waste involved in homemade compost heaps, it’s natural for them to have a temperature that is significantly lower and less constant than in composting facilities. This is why the OK Compost Home certificate exists, to identify compostable materials capable of composting at lower temperatures so that they can go into your compost heap at home.
Alternative to parchment paper
Quite often – those of us who create a compost heap at home, are trying to find a way to reduce household waste, as well as create something that may be useful for farmers and also benefit the soil in the process in form of nutrients.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be ethical from my part to provide you with alternatives such as aliminium foil (an often recommended alternative), when that just would generate more waste, not to mention the fact it can’t be composted. So, what’s the alternative?
The alternative is to acquire products that serve the same utility as parchment paper but capable of lasting much longer. For instance, the silicone baking mats by Kitzini (available on Amazon) are a popular choice among household and commercial bakers because of their longevity and reusability.
These baking mats, in particular, are made of fiberglass mesh and high-quality food-grade silicone, which provides consistent heat distribution, and a non-stick surface to place your dough, without generating additional waste.
Unless the parchment paper is precisely certified as being compostable (in commercial facilities or at home), you shouldn’t throw it into your compost heap.
A lot of the parchment paper on the market will have been treated or bleached with chlorine (a rather dangerous chemical) and coated with silicone, which means it’s decomposition cannot be guaranteed, especially in DIY compost piles where the temperatures are usually lower and less consistent.
Some parchment paper (like the one sold by Raynolds and If You Care) is certified as being compostable. But depending on the certificate (and you must pay close attention to the label of each product), you may only be able to compost it in commercial facilites.
Is parchment paper the same as wax paper?
Parchment paper can be used in the oven, while wax paper cannot. Their major difference lies in their coating. Parchment paper is coated with non-stick silicone, while wax paper, as the name suggests, is coated with a soybean or paraffin wax.
Is parchment paper oven safe?
Parchment paper is specially treated for oven use. The silicone coating makes it oil resistance, moist, and heat resistant. This means that, unlike regular paper, parchment paper won’t catch fire in the oven.