The truth is, mostly not. A very small proportion of waxed paper is suitable for home composting because of the coating used to make the paper more non-stick, airtight and resilient.
We’ll take a look here at the sources of that wax, and why they can be incompatible with home composting. And then we’ll look at other ways that you can deal with used wax paper responsibly.
After all, it is a relief when we know we’re not adding to the heart-stopping volumes of waste piling up in landfill zones. Finally, we’ll look at ways you can expand the lifespan of a single roll of wax paper without consigning it to the trash after a single use.
What has the paper been waxed with?
The two main forms of wax coating are derived from soybean and paraffin. Neither are toxic in the form taken on the paper, just as neither soy nor paraffin candles are toxic as a result of the extraction process which creates them. That said, it’s not toxicity that we’re concerned with at the moment.
Papers coated with soybean will compost just fine. It just takes a little longer for the protective coating of the soybean wax to dissolve in the heated moisture of the compost pile.
The microorganisms in the soil do not thrive on soybean derivatives, but it is possible to introduce finely shredded soy wax paper into your compost.
Just make sure that you balance your compost composition as usual, with a 30:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen, plenty of soil to encourage the decomposition process, and an adequate water and air supply.
Things become slightly more complicated when we consider paraffin waxes. Whether the paraffin is derived from vegetable oil extracts or petroleum, the substantial strings of hydrocarbon present an unnecessary challenge to the art of balancing the chemical composition of your compost heap.
Vegetable-derived paraffin is organic at its core and will decompose at roughly the rate of soy-coated wax paper.
However, the robust cellular structure of paraffin wax makes it difficult for the microorganisms to digest, even as it melts in a compost heap’s inner temperature of between 100-150°F (when the biological process is working well). Shreds of paraffin waxed paper won’t significantly harm your compost, but they won’t contribute to the nutritional value either.
For the sake of preserving the microbiotic health of the organisms in your compost heap, we don’t recommend adding any paraffin-waxed paper which has been derived from petroleum.
If you own a worm bin, then we would recommend sticking with normal newspaper and card, not adding any kind of waxed paper into the bedding mix at all.
Is wax paper biodegradable?
All wax paper is biodegradable. It will be become mulch in between 2-6 weeks and finally slither its way back into the ground to join the great circle of microbial life. However, we don’t blame you for not wanting to add to household landfill trash. So, what else can we do with wax paper once it’s been used?
Recovered wax paper and board can be repulped and begin a new life as raw material for corrugated board.
This doesn’t always happen. Some recycling facilities are more advanced than others, and frankly better staffed than others. It can take a long time to sift and separate recyclable trash into discrete, clean resource supplies.
If you recycle your wax paper along with the rest of your paper waste, there is still a chance that it will be set aside not as source of raw material for pulping, but as fuel for incineration. You might wonder if this is not a horrible waste of paper.
It’s a fair point. After all, at some stage in the paper’s life, it was part of a beautiful tree. Sadly, we can’t bring that tree back. We can only plant one, or hope that this has been done by the mill responsible for purchasing the lumber for pulp.
That said, incinerating wax paper is way better than allowing it to biodegrade. Not only does it save further contents from landfill, but it provides a high calorific value when burned, making it an excellent fuel source (and saving other precious sources from depletion).
Either way, it either gets used or responsibly destroyed.
Reuse it in the kitchen
Wrap sandwiches in it, sealing with stickers or tape.
Wrap cheese in it a few times, so long as it’s not the kind of cheese with an odor which pulls up a chair and makes itself at home, of course.
Use it to roll out flatbread dough, both between dough and the counter surface and the dough and the rolling pin. Flour is not always the best anti-stick agent for yogurt-based doughs.
Roll it up and use it to funnel herbs or salt crystals into narrow-topped pots or grinders
Repurpose it around the house
Cover and disguise truly horrible coffee coasters by taping them tightly (but neatly) beneath and drawing your own design with Sharpies.
Use it to cover expensive school or college textbooks
Use as drizzle-proof shopping lists for markets on wet days.
Rub them over stiff bearings in drawers and over dress or jean zippers which repeatedly misbehave. The wax deposits will make them flow more slickly.
Don’t get locked out: when you’re done with the wax paper around a stick of butter, fold it into four and leave it on the table by the front or back door.
If you need to step out to grab the mail, slot the folded rectangle between the door and the hole in the casing so that the latch can’t engage.
Use thinner wax paper for arts and crafts tracing paper
Did someone leave an evil smell in your vegetable crisper? Fold the wax paper into a little open-topped box and tape the sides up.
Sprinkle a little baking soda into it and leave the improvised pot in the refrigerator to absorb the worst of the nasty moisture. Ditch both the paper pot and the soda without having to wash up (or breathe shallowly).
Finally, use it to remove dried water spots from faucets and handrails in the bathroom before running a microfiber cloth over them for a good shine.