Are coffee filters compostable? Read this article before binning the used coffee filter and coffee grounds to help recycle your waste.
What we will cover in this article:
- Are Coffee Filters Compostable?
- What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?
- Are Unbleached Coffee Filters Better?
- Do Coffee Filters Contain Plastic?
- Are Coffee Filters Bad For The Environment?
- Are Coffee Filters Recyclable?
- How Do I Compost Coffee Filters? – Step by step guide
- Can I Put Coffee Filters In A Worm Bin?
Are Coffee Filters Compostable?
Paper coffee filters may be overlooked as compostable materials, but they do not have to be. In fact, if composted correctly, coffee filters can be a nutrient-rich addition to your compost or garden. So if you have ever asked, “are coffee filters compostable?” you will find that the answer is, yes, they are! This article will break down the composition of coffee filters, their biodegradability, and the correct composting process for coffee filters.
What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?
“Coffee filters” are made of many materials — including paper, plastic, and metal. That said, if you want to narrow the discussion on coffee filters to those soaked papery filters that contain the coffee grinds and are easily disposed of — you are likely talking about paper coffee filters.
Paper coffee filters come in at least two types, bleached and unbleached.
Bleached coffee filters
These are white in appearance as they have been treated with chemicals – which include, of course, bleach – that remove the natural colors of paper to give the filter a “clean” appearance.
Unbleached coffee filters
These are brown in appearance and have not been treated with bleach, chlorine, or like chemicals. They have a tendancy to be slightly rougher in texture. Their lining, especially the parts that assemble the “cone” shape, may also contain synthetics to bind them together.
The underlying material in both bleached and unbleached paper coffee filters is, of course, paper. It is made from coarse softwood long fibers processed into a pulp and then processed again into fine-holed filters with filaments only 20 micrometers wide.
Are Unbleached Coffee Filters Better?
At face value, since unbleached coffee filters have not been treated with additional chemicals, then yes, they are better for the environment, and this includes composts.
However, bleached coffee filters may not be too terribly different. When bleached filters were developed decades ago, they may have contained substantial chemicals in their production. These days, a negligible amount of bleach and chlorine are used — making them more suitable for both people’s health and the environment.
If you are planning to make compost out of your used coffee filters, it is best to be aware of the biodegradability of the products you choose. Look on the package for information from the manufacturer before you buy.
Do Coffee Filters Contain Plastic?
Yes, some of them do. According to a 2016 thesis from Tampere University of Applied Sciences (Finland), some coffee filters contain a Polyamide epichlorohydrin compound. This compound is used in the filter’s binding process.
Epichlorohydrin is a synthetic component of plastics and has been classified as a probable human carcinogen.
The actual amount of epichlorohydrin is not a determining factor in coffee filter biodegradability. Although this is the case, it might be a better idea to purchase completely biodegradable coffee filters.
These filters are often labeled as such with certifications from the USDA and other government/independent environmental organizations.
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Are Coffee Filters Bad For The Environment?
Broadly speaking, disposable paper coffee filters aren’t terrible for the environment — provided that they are allowed to decompose correctly.
That, and if they are composed of the right materials — like unbleached paper — and are free of plastics and synthetics, they should be entirely biodegradable.
Of course, this can depend on the number of coffee filters used and how they are discarded. An individual carefully cutting up their used paper coffee filters to put into a layered compost heap may be “better” for the environment than an entire apartment building (or city) collecting used coffee filters to throw together in a landfill or communal compost pile.
The more the coffee filters, which are considered dry, carbon-rich “brown” compost components are allowed to mix with wet, nitrogen-rich “green” compost components, the easier it is for these components to decompose properly.
Putting used coffee filters together without mixing them with other compost components will reduce their chances of breaking down, resulting in short (or even long) term environmental detriment.
Are Coffee Filters Recyclable?
Used disposable paper coffee filters are not recyclable, even if cleaned free of coffee grinds. This is because the oils and residue from the coffee grinds make the paper unsuitable for recycling.
How Do I Compost Coffee Filters? – Step by step guide
If you are considering disposing of your coffee filters in an environmentally friendly way, compost them. First, get a container that is three-foot-wide, three-foot-long, and three-foot-tall (three cubic feet). Put a 1-2 inch layer of topsoil on the bottom of the box container.
Then, put a 3-5 inch layer of “brown” compostable materials (shredded coffee filters, dried grass, leaves, and/or wood) on top of the first layer.
Put another 3-5 inch layer of “green” compostable materials (fruit cores, peels, vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, eggshells, etc.) on top of the “brown” layer.
Put another 1-2 inch layer of topsoil on top of this “green layer,” and mist the layers with a garden hose to get compost just damp enough to activate the microorganisms within (as wet as a squeezed-out sponge, not completely soaked).
Repeat this layering process now, until you reach the top. Wait five or six weeks for the mixture to decompose and turn manually with a pitchfork every one or two weeks after that. It will take 6-8 months for the mixture to fully become usable compost.
Can I Put Coffee Filters In A Worm Bin?
Yes, you can. Esenia fetida, or redworms, are a compost-specific earthworm species that are receptive to coffee grounds and paper coffee filters. Some people like to crush eggshells into the mix to neutralize pH levels supposedly — but this is up to you.
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Coffee filters are compostable, so long as the composting process is done carefully and correctly. Some types of disposable paper coffee filters are better to use environmentally speaking — but for the most part, all types of paper filters degrade over time. Keep the correct processes in mind, and you will have compost that is useful and environmentally friendly.
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