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Person grabbing a paper towel from the bathroom dispenser that reads, "paper towels only, compost."

Composting paper towel waste

Recycling bins are commonplace around SRP office buildings, so much so that every single trash bin has a recycling bin either attached to it or located just a few feet away. Except for in one area: the restrooms.  

Handling the obvious recyclables around the office, such as plastic bottles, copy paper and cardboard, is easy. But what about the tons of paper towel waste accumulated each day? Unfortunately, due to contamination with food, grease and other fluids, paper towels are not able to be recycled in the traditional sense. 

SRP never settles for the status quo when it comes to sustainability. We even funded research to figure out how to recycle cable waste. This is because one of our sustainability goals is reducing waste and keeping it out of landfills. Figuring out the solution for paper towel waste was just another challenge that needed some creative thinking.   

The composting process

Compost bins were added in the bathrooms and in the cafeteria at SRP’s headquarters. These bins are exchanged three days a week to help prevent unwanted smells or overflowing. Each time a bin is exchanged, the weight of the contents is recorded in order to track how much waste is being diverted.  

From there, the compost is transported to a local farm where it is separated from any contamination. It is then added to the rest of the compost where it will transform over the next one to two years. When the time comes, the compost goes through a sifter machine and is then spread over farm fields. The compost is used to grow local seasonal produce and herbs.  

In the first month of this new initiative, we recorded a combined 4,625 lbs. of back-of house food waste and paper towels – 35% of which was turned into compost that can cover one-twentieth of an acre of farmland for an entire year! 

We continue working on ways to minimize our operational impact to make the power and water we deliver more sustainable.   

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