Generally, yes you can compost coffee filters, as long as they are made from paper and do not contain any artificial dyes and whatnot. If you’re used to paper filters, drinking coffee daily will make you think about whether you are harming the environment or not. This guide will help you out!
Paper filters are compostable as long as they are:
- made from organic material
- without added artificial dyes or colorants
If you’ve decided to compost coffee filters, you’re doing a great job for the environment! Paper coffee filters go into the brown material that will supplement your soil with carbon to balance out the nitrogen content. On the other side, coffee grounds make an excellent nitrogen source so you might want to throw them in as well.
Likewise, coffee filters that have been washed up and used can help with oxygen balance, which means you’ll get less smelly compost as a result.
Coffee Filters Types
Before you go and consider coffee filter composting, here’s a refresher course on the different types of filters. This will also let you know which ones are recyclable, compostable, and eco-friendly, and which ones aren’t. Let’s take a look at them:
The paper filter creates a delicate texture with your coffee. When you use this type of filter, it gives off low sediments and oil because of its fine filtering design. Out of all the types of filters out there, this is the easiest to clean up.
However, it is not eco-friendly because you have to toss it out, which leads us to the question of composting coffee filters. Moreover, it’s a little pricey in the long run (yearly expenses).
This type will give off similar sediments to paper filters although the coffee has more oil due to the loose weaving. It is eco-friendly compared to paper filters and it is also lower-priced. If you take good care of it, the fabric filter can last for 1 year or so.
Despite those advantages, maintenance is difficult because removing the grind is tricky. Moreover, scrubbing and oiling the filter is troublesome.
When you use a metal filter, you leave lots of oil and sediments into the coffee, creating a very creamy texture. When it comes to maintenance, metal filters are easier to clean than fabric types. On pricing, metal filters a little more expensive at first but in the long run, they can last a lifetime.
Which filter to choose
What do you need at the moment? You should ask yourself what kind of coffee you like, as well as the features and considerations for each filter type, summarized below:
- textured full-body coffee: go for a Metal Filter
- eco-friendly and budget-friendly: use a Fabric Filter
- convenience, clean and crisp cup, less cleaning: stick to Paper Filters
Is It Safe to Compost Coffee Filters?
Yes, as long as your coffee filter is paper and is unbleached. Anything that is made from plastic should not go into the compost bin. Only organic materials should be composted and that includes paper filters and the coffee grounds that were already used.
If you aren’t sure whether your coffee filter is compostable or not, you can check with the manufacturer. Usually, many filter makers nowadays indicate in their labels if their product is compostable or not. Many companies have also tried investing in fully compostable coffee filters, which means they don’t go through the bleaching process.
How to Compost Coffee Filters
Composting old coffee filters is a simple task. Here’s how you can do your composting at home:
- Prepare your coffee filter with your coffee grounds. As we mentioned above, composting both the filter and the grounds is beneficial to your soil and plants.
- Reduce their size. Trim and shred your coffee filters so that they will not take too long to decompose. You can use scissors and manually cut down your filter into smaller strips.
- Add only a fair amount. A common mistake with composting is adding too much – only add a few to speed up the process.
- Ensure moisture. Anything moist will break down quickly in compost.
Are Coffee Filters Bad for the Environment?
It depends on the type of filter, but generally, single-use paper filters aren’t very eco-friendly because you have to throw them away. This is why people are considering ways on reducing our landfill waste by composting these paper filters.
Most of us can’t avoid not using a paper filter due to its convenience. However, if you want to truly go eco-friendly, we recommend either a cloth/fabric or a metal filter since both of them are reusable. The only downside to cloth filters is the difficulty in cleaning and that metal filters cost more upfront.
Alternative Uses for Used Coffee Filters
To help out Mother Earth doesn’t mean you have to give up on your coffee maker! Coffee filters can still be reused in other ways if you can’t compost them for some reason. Worry not – coffee filters have a ton of alternative uses, such as the following:
Turn Them into Crafts
Due to the rustic design of a coffee filter, once you’ve used them up, you can use them for a ton of recycled projects for the kids or yourself and your home. A famous example would be a lampshade that looks elegant for bedrooms, living rooms, and the like. Place them together and voila – you have an instant rustic lamp.
Children can also turn these used coffee filters into fun art projects, such as flower garlands, cut-out art, scrapbooks, and other DIY items. Kids can also add colors to make the coffee filters look like flowers!
You’re not only enhancing your children’s creativity but you are also teaching them to be more responsible with the environment and the trash that we throw every single day.
Keep Reusing Your Coffee Filter
Much like with tea bags, a coffee filter is not a one-hit-wonder – you can reuse it up to 5 times if you want to save the environment (and also cut down on your budget). You may use your filter again and again until it no longer works properly – just be sure to wash it and let it dry before you put it back into your coffee maker.
Use it for Planting
If you’ve grown the new hobby of keeping plants during these days, you can use these old coffee filters to line the pots and planters so that soil won’t leak out. This idea works for both indoor and outdoor plants so it’s okay for urban gardening.
How this works is that coffee filters are essentially filtering the soil and water while also adding aeration to the pot or planter. It may require a bit of shaping to fit the container but overall, it will help.
Aside from keeping the soil intact, used coffee filters are also great for seed germination. To do this, add moisture to the filter and place it in a container. Wait for the seeds to sprout and then transfer the germinations to the soil as needed.
Cooking Oil Filtering
While most of us want to save cooking oil for many uses until it goes bad, did you know that used coffee filters work the best for that? Since coffee filters were made to handle food, it’s okay to use them for cooking oil.
All you need to do is to clean up your used coffee filter, fit it into a jar mouth and pour your cooking oil. The oil will get filtered but make sure it’s not hot to avoid burning your filter! A good coffee filter to use for this has a loose middle part for an easier funnel-like filtering process.
Use it in the Microwave
Do you often get microwave splatters all over the inside of your appliance and have difficulty in cleaning it? Worry no more – use your old and used coffee filters to keep the splatters away. To do this, simply cover the food that you want to heat in the microwave and the splashes of sauces won’t get into your microwave walls.
Keep Ceramics and Cookware Protected
If you need to stack your ceramic bowls and whatnot, one way to protect them from being chipped is to line them up with coffee filters that have already been used. You can do the same method for cast iron skillets so that you can protect them from corrosion.
Aside from that, you can use your old coffee filters as a spoon or spatula rest. If you have nowhere to place your cooking spoon or ladle while you are cooking, simply lay them down on your used coffee filters and you won’t have to deal with a dirty kitchen counter!
Make Shoes Smell Good
No one wants stinky shoes, but the problem is that they usually stink all the time! A used coffee filter can do the trick with a combination of baking soda. Tie up the baking soda into the filter and place it inside the shoe (or any footwear) to remove the foul smells.
Tip: make sure you won’t be using the footwear for a while! It’s best to do this after you head outside and went back home so you can leave it overnight.
Paper Backing for Sewing
If you are into sewing either as a job or a hobby, you may find yourself in a shortage of paper backing for certain projects. A well-rinsed used coffee filter can suffice since it’s easy to tear off. Make sure that it is properly cleaned and dried; otherwise, you could be leaking out coffee stains onto your fabric! Paper backing is often used for embroidery designs.
Wrap Decorations for Storage
Delicate décor around the house, such as Christmas tree hangers, can be wrapped inside a used coffee filter so that when you put it inside a box or container, it won’t make unnecessary noise. This is especially the case if the material has some metal or aluminum parts, or even delicate glass.
For Your Table
If you want coffee or tea time (or even dinner time) to look classy, you can use your old coffee filter as a makeshift décor. Its natural color will give a vintage feel so it’s an easy choice for recycled home décor.
Name: Rebecca Tarvin
Discipline: Integrative biology
Degrees: B.A., Biology, Boston University, 2010; Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin,2017
Rebecca Tarvin is broadly interested in integrating studies of natural history with molecular genomics and phylogenetics. Specifically, she aims to elucidate causal genetic mechanisms underlying novel traits, characterize phenotypic diversification at macro and micro-evolutionary scales, and identify factors that promote and constrain biodiversity.
She also likes to write about eco-friendly lifestyle and other material alternatives that are eco-friendly, aside from other ways to save Mother Earth