are paper napkins or cloth more environmentally friendly

are paper napkins or cloth more environmentally friendly

Are Paper Napkins or Cloth More Environmentally Friendly?

When it comes to creating a greener planet, it’s important to consider environmental impact in the objects we use, including disposable napkins. So which type of napkin is better for the environment, paper or cloth?

Environmental Impact of Paper Napkins

  • Production: Producing paper napkins requires energy and materials, such as water for grooming and refining, which can impact the environment. In addition, paper napkins are generally made of bleached or colored recycled paper, which further increases their environmental impact.
  • Composting: Paper napkins can be composted, making them more environmentally friendly than cloth napkins. However, the decomposition process takes a considerably longer time than more common compostable materials, such as food scraps.
  • Landfills: If paper napkins aren’t properly composted, they will likely end up in a landfill, where they will take up space and won’t decompose.

Environmental Impact of Cloth Napkins

  • Production: Manufacturing cloth napkins requires energy and resources, such as water for weaving and dyeing. The environmental impact of cloth napkins is typically less than paper napkins, however.
  • Laundering: Cloth napkins require washing and drying, typically resulting in additional energy used in order to keep them clean and useable. As well, hot water and the use of drying machines can have a greater impact on natural resources.
  • Reusability: The main benefit of using cloth napkins over paper is their reusability. Once purchased, cloth napkins can be used for a long period of time and fewer resources are needed to produce and dispose of them.


When it comes to disposable napkins, there is no clear answer as to which is more environmentally friendly. It depends on the individual’s lifestyle and how each type is used. Paper napkins are convenient and easy to use, however the environmental impact of producing and disposing of them can be greater. On the other hand, cloth napkins are usually more expensive, but they can be reused many times. Ultimately, the best way to reduce the impact on the environment is to choose products with sustainable materials and to be conscious of how they are disposed of.

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