Is Wax Paper Compostable or Biodegradable?

Last Updated on June 19, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

If the paper is soybean based, then it is compostable

Wax paper is a common kitchen accessory and its waterproof, moisture-resistance quality makes it perfect to wrap your food to prevent it from becoming soggy. And, apart from being used to wrap food, wax paper also has other uses such as for baking purposes, rolling dough, to line drawers, as a microwave protector, to unstick zippers, as a fast funnel, etc.

Wax paper is essentially coated with wax on one or both sides and the wax coating can be made from soybean oil, vegetable oil, or petroleum oil. You can reuse waxed paper a few times; however, after a few uses it will outlive its usefulness and you’re left wondering how to dispose of it.

Waste disposal services usually don’t accept wax paper for recycling as it cannot be processed with regular paper and the only option is to probably throw it in the trash bin. However, if you don’t want to do that and are wondering if you can put wax paper in your compost pile, whether it is biodegradable and compostable, then read on to know more.

Types of Wax Papers

Although all kinds of wax papers serve the same purpose; however, they can be made in several different ways. There is bleached and unbleached. Both of these are types of paper and are compostable.

Some wax paper brands are made of vegetable paraffin wax or soybean oil wax. These wax papers are biodegradable and compostable. Other kinds of wax papers are made of petroleum oil wax. These are not healthy or safe for the microorganisms in your compost bin or garden and so should not be composted.  

Is Wax Paper Compostable?

The oft asked question is whether wax paper is compostable or not. As we discussed earlier, paper that is coated with soybean oil-based wax is compostable. While soybean wax is organic, it is still wax, which microbes find quite difficult to digest.

On the other hand, paraffin-based wax paper is usually coated with vegetable oil or petroleum. Although vegetable oil wax is organic, just like soybean oil wax, microbes find it difficult to digest even wax paper coated with vegetable oil wax.

Petroleum-based paraffin wax is inorganic and is just not suitable for composting or use in your garden. Often manufacturers make wax papers with added bleach and chlorine during the manufacturing process, which makes the wax paper not suitable for composting.

Is Wax Paper Biodegradable?

The other common question asked is if wax paper is biodegradable or not. Wax paper is not only very useful, but it is also environmentally friendly, which makes it an excellent eco-friendly wrapping alternative.

In fact, both soybean oil-based and vegetable oil-based wax paper are organic and decompose in two weeks to a month’s time, which is at the same pace as leaves in the wild. So, we can conclude that most of the wax papers are biodegradable.

Why Not to Compost Wax Paper

Although wax paper is biodegradable, composting it is not very easy and in some cases, it is not even recommended. Depending on the type of wax used to coat the paper, composting it may end up adding potentially carcinogenic or toxic substances to your compost pile, which can get into your homegrown food.

Wax paper that is petroleum based or any other material that contains petroleum or petroleum byproducts. Sometimes, if the soil contains the proper microorganisms, some of the lighter molecules of petroleum can be broken down; however, this is not always the case.

And even under favorable conditions, only around 90% of oil-based molecules break down because the 10% of the remaining molecules that are made up of complex and larger hydrocarbons are not biodegradable. If hydrocarbons are present in agricultural soil in high amounts, they find their way into food easily and are known for their carcinogenic and toxic effects and so, you don’t want any petroleum-based compounds in your compost or soil.  

Wax paper coated with vegetable oil-based wax is very safe for composting; however, the process can take quite a long time. The properties that make the wax-coated paper waterproof make it quite difficult for the bacteria and other microorganisms to decompose and break them down. So, wax paper eventually does decompose; however, unlike composting coffee filters and paper towels, it takes a very long time to do so.

Other Methods to Dispose of Wax Paper

If you use a lot of wax paper but don’t quite like the idea of the disposed wax paper filling up the landfills, then there is no reason to panic. The best way to reduce the amount of wax paper in the trash is to reduce the amount you throw away. While wax paper is not recyclable because of its waxy coating, there are a few things that you can do to prevent it from landing up in the trash.

  • You can try to reuse the wax paper several times as it is possible. Wax paper can easily be cleaned and reused.
  • You can reduce the amount of wax paper that you use on a regular basis by using recyclable alternatives like cellulose bags or other options that reduce waste.
  • If you are a serious composter with a composting toolkit, then you can start a second compost pile and put in the wax paper that is no longer usable and allow it to break down over time. However, you will not have usable compost for a few years. So, you could consider the cold compost technique to compost the wax paper.

Wax paper is very useful; however, if you love your baking and your garden, then the lack of being able to compost wax paper very easily can be a downside. Whether you can compost wax paper or not really depends on the material used to coat the paper, but if you should have any leftover bread from your baking, you’ll be pleased to know that bread is also compostable.

If the coating uses soybean oil or vegetable oil wax, then it is fine to use the wax paper for composting, although microbes may find it difficult to digest. Whereas, if the paper is coated with petroleum-based paraffin, then it should definitely not be composted. And, if you insist on using wax paper, make sure that you choose the petroleum-free kind.