Paper Towels Put in Garbage Do Not Recycle Unused paper towels cannot be recycled because the fibers are too short to be made into new paper. Used paper towels also cannot be recycled because they are usually soiled with food or grease, which contaminate the recycling process. Compost Towels and Tubes Brown paper towels and their cardboard tubes can be put in a home compost. Do not compost white paper towels at home compost because they are bleached. Also, do not compost any paper towels that have come into contact with chemicals. Recycle Cardboard Tubes Recycle the tubes inside paper towel rolls with other cardboard. Find out more about cardboard tubes. Ways to Reduce Choose Unbleached Paper Products Most paper products that are white or decorative have been chemically bleached and dyed. Opt for undyed, unbleached paper products to reduce the chemical exposure for you and the environment. Switch to Unpaper Towels Cut down on waste by making the switch to unpaper towels, or reusable towels made from cotton or linen. You can even wrap them around a paper towel dispenser for easy access.