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Are Coffee Filters Compostable? Plus, Tips on How You Can Reuse Them

Many people may not realize it, but their caffeine fix is contributing to a significant problem—waste. Especially if you prepare your drink using the traditional pour-over method, your coffee filters will end up in a pile of trash.

To minimize the environmental impact of your coffee habit, you are probably wondering – are coffee filters compostable? Read on as I’ve got the answer to your question, plus tips on how to reuse them.

Are Coffee Filters Compostable?

coffee filters

YES, coffee filters are compostable. However, it depends on the type of coffee filter. I’ll talk more about this later on.

If you want to compost your coffee filters, then you should go for ones that are made of paper. Those made of other materials, such as plastic and metal, are non-compostable, although they are reusable.

It is also crucial to consider the chemicals in the filter, which will dictate whether it is safe or not for composting. The best choice is an unbleached coffee filter as it has fewer chemicals that impact the compost quality.

Pros of Composting Coffee Filters

man pouring water with filter for coffee

Here are some of the most compelling reasons for coffee filters to end up in your composting bin:

  • Decomposes quickly, especially if it is made of paper
  • Worms can easily digest the filter material
  • A potent source of nitrogen
  • Leaves no or minimal chemical traces (depending on the type of coffee filter)

Cons of Composting Coffee Filters

Despite the benefits, there are also some drawbacks, including the following:

  • Coffee remnants may affect the acidity of the soil
  • Prone to having an unpleasant odor
  • Must stay moist for fast breakdown

What About Coffee Grounds?

coffee grounds and a spoon

Like coffee filters, coffee grounds are also compostable. It is green compost, which means that it is a rich source of nitrogen. More so, it has other trace minerals, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

One of the best things about using coffee grounds is that it is easy to compost. All that you need is to add it to the soil and leave it as is. Nonetheless, one of the major requirements is to balance it with other materials, especially those that are considered brown compost. Some examples of the latter include dry leaves, newspaper, sawdust, and wood chips.

But before you compost, you might want to reuse coffee grounds first.

The Different Types of Coffee Filters

In understanding the use of coffee filters as compost, it is also crucial that you are familiar with the types of coffee filters. Not all of them will make a nutrient-rich addition to the soil.

Some can do more harm than good, so keep an eye out.

Here are the three main categories of coffee filters:

  • Metal: Often made of perforated aluminum or stainless steel, it has a small hole where water passes through. It is reusable, making it good for the environment. Nonetheless, since it is non-biodegradable, this isn’t for composting.
  • Cloth: Like metal, it is an environment-friendly alternative. Not to mention, it is affordable. The cloth will absorb oil from the coffee, which can minimize the flavor and aroma. It is also not used for compost.
  • Paper: From the three main types of coffee filters, this is the only one that you can use in compost. They are not reusable. It is biodegradable, so it breaks down in the right environment.

Nonetheless, not all coffee filters are for your compost. Let’s look at the two main types below:

  • Bleached: These coffee filters have been through a bleaching process to make them white. It uses chlorine and oxygen, so they are not great for composting. They contain trace elements that are bad for the environment. Although, oxygen isn’t as bad as chlorine.
  • Unbleached: If you want to compost your coffee filters, then you should buy ones that are unbleached. It does not use chemicals during its production, so it retains the natural look of the paper.

How to Compost Coffee Filters

Now that you know that coffee filters are compostable, you are probably wondering how to do so.

  1. Compost the coffee filter along with the coffee grounds. The latter makes a great natural home-made fertilizer, so you do not need to remove them. They both have key nutrients that are beneficial in enriching the soil quality.
  2. Break the filter apart. Even if the material is biodegradable, you can speed up the process by tearing it down into smaller pieces for easier decomposition. Since it is already wet, tearing the filter is easy.
  3. Add the filters to your compost, but avoid overdoing it. Adding too much will upset the balance of the nutrients in the compost. Putting the filters in bulk and on top of each other will slow down the process.
  4. Add other materials to the mix. Coffee filters alone will not suffice. You need to add brown compost, which includes dry leaves and sawdust. Adding worms is also a good idea as it can speed the breaking down of the filters.
  5. Watch out and keep the filters moist. They can dry out quickly, which will slow the degradation. To prevent this from happening, occasionally mist the compost pile with water or add other moist materials.

Other Ways to Reuse Coffee Filters

Beyond composting, coffee filters have many other uses, including the following:

Use It Again

Most companies will market paper filters as disposable. But if you opt for ones with high quality, they are often made of thicker materials, so you can reuse them while making sure that the quality is not compromised.

To reuse coffee filters, make sure to dump the excess grounds after making your coffee. Give it a quick rinse to get rid of the remnants. Dry thoroughly before reusing.

Strain Cooking Oil

If you often fry or cook with oil, you have another good reason to reuse your coffee filters. It is effective for straining oil. Simply put the filter in a jar opening and pour used oil. The filter will get rid of the sediments that are present in the old oil, making sure that it is clean.

Dry Glassware

Hate seeing fingermarks and other unsightly streaks on your glassware? One of the best tricks is to use coffee filters to wipe them. They are often made of high-quality paper that can absorb water from the glass without leaving smears or lint.

Create a Natural Deodorizer

By adding baking soda to a coffee filter, you can create a natural deodorizer. Use rubber bands or string to close the bag and put it in places with a foul smell. It can be a good addition to a stinky fridge or smelly shoes. Before doing so, however, make sure that the filters have no leftover grounds and are dry.

Control Weed Growth

Weed can be a nuisance for impatient gardeners. Slow down weed growth and prevent their invasion with the help of coffee filters. Place it around the base of plants. The moisture will seep through in the soil and can slow down weed.

Retain Microwave Moisture

A microwave is one of the must-have kitchen appliances. While it is versatile and convenient, some people dislike using such. For instance, if you are reheating pizza, it can end up being dry and bland. If you want to retain moisture and optimal flavor, add a used coffee filter and it will prevent moisture from escaping.

Use as a Tea Bag

If you also like drinking tea, then you can transform your coffee filter into a tea bag. Fill it with your choice of loose-leaf tea. Use a string to tie the top part. Steep in hot water as you would do in a normal tea bag.

FAQs

Are coffee filters bad for the environment?

Yes, and no. It is bad if you are using non-biodegradable coffee filters and you are not doing anything to recycle them. Meanwhile, it is not bad for the environment if it is made of biodegradable and compostable material, such as unbleached brown paper. So, the answer to the question depends on what you use and how you use them.

How long does it take for coffee filters to decompose?

It takes roughly two weeks to eight months for coffee filters to decompose. There is no exact answer to this question as many factors come into play. It will depend on the type of filter, humidity, and temperature, among other things.

Do coffee filters contain plastic?

It depends on the type of coffee filter. Obviously, if it is plastic, then it contains plastic. Nonetheless, the compostable kind is made of paper, so there is no plastic component. Metal and cloth coffee filters also do not contain plastic.

Final Thoughts

Coffee filters are compostable. Nonetheless, it depends on the type of filter. Go for unbleached paper filters if you want to minimize the environmental impact of your daily coffee habits. This way, you can safely add them to the compost without worrying of introducing harmful chemicals into the mix.

Avatar for Krista Haws

Known among her friends as 'the caffeine fiend', Krista loves all things coffee. From an extremely short, strong espresso to a 3 day cold brew, Krista loves them all.

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