Can Wax Paper Be Recycled? Environmentally Friendly Alternatives

Abstract image of fluted wax paper creating grooves and curves against bright orange background

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Wax paper can’t be recycled with other paper items because the wax coating interferes with the recycling process. However, there are still plenty of different options to dispose of your wax paper in an environmentally friendly way.

What Exactly Is Wax Paper?

Wax paper is parchment paper that’s been coated with a thin layer of wax on each side. This makes it resistant to moisture and provides a non-stick surface.

The majority of wax paper is coated in a food-safe paraffin wax, which is either made using petroleum or vegetable oil. Some brands of wax paper also use soybean oil. 

Wax papers that use vegetable or soybean oil are a more environmentally friendly option than those that use petroleum-based paraffin, which is a by-product of the unsustainable fossil fuel industry. Note that paraffin wax is sometimes called mineral wax, but they’re the same thing. 

Why Wax Paper Can’t Be Recycled

High Angle View Of Eaten Bread On Crumpled Paper

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The coating in wax paper is water-resistant, and paper needs to be shredded with water as one of the first steps in recycling. This makes it unsuitable to be processed alongside most other paper waste. It’s also often covered with grease or additional oils from foods, which are not accepted by recycling facilities.

Rather than throwing your wax paper in the trash, there are a few options for reusing it first. 

Ways to Reuse Wax Paper 

Rather than throw away your wax paper after one use, you can sometimes use it multiple times to extend its useful life. Reusing an item as many times as possible is always a good, environmentally friendly option, especially if it can’t be recycled afterward. 

Here are some ideas for reusing waxed paper:

  • Clean and reuse. If the wax paper has been used to wrap sandwiches or baked goods it can be wiped down with cold water and soap, dried, and used again. Make sure you don’t use hot water as this can melt the wax coating. Never reuse wax paper if it’s been used to wrap raw meat, eggs, or cheese.  
  • Remove limescale spots. Rub metal taps with wax paper to remove limescale spots.
  • Lubricate garden tools. Rub your garden shears with wax paper to help protect them from rust and add a little lubrication. 
  • Loosen a stuck zipper. Take a small piece of wax paper and rub the zipper and zip to coat them in a thin layer of wax which should help get things unstuck. 
  • Create a DIY fire starter. Make your own DIY fire starter by wrapping some dryer lint in used wax paper. 
  • Arts and crafts. Used and cleaned wax paper also makes a water-resistant paper boat for activities with the kids.

What to Use Instead of Wax Paper

Close up shot of a mans hands wrapping some sandwiches with beeswax reusable wraps and food on a wooden cutting board

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You may decide that you’d prefer to switch away from using wax paper. If you use wax paper for wrapping food, a similar yet more environmentally friendly option is reusable beeswax and fabric wrap. These are usually made by coating fabric with a blend of beeswax, tree resin, and an essential oil like jojoba. 

Beeswax and fabric wraps like those from Bees’ Wrap and Abeego can be cleaned using cold water and soap and reused for up to a year. You can also make your own beeswax wraps at home. Note that beeswax wraps aren’t recommended for wrapping raw meat, though. 

If you use wax paper to create a non-stick surface when baking, then switching to reusable baking mats is a better idea. 

Brown paper bags can be used to store fruit and vegetables, and for wrapping sandwiches and other food items. They're much easier to recycle or compost than wax paper.  

Rather than wrapping your food, store it in plastic-free storage containers instead. There are plenty of other ways you can work towards a zero-waste kitchen, too, including storing food in a bowl with a plate on top or a reusable zipper bag.

Can Wax Paper Be Composted?

While it can’t be recycled, the good news is that some wax paper can be composted at home. If you use wax paper made with vegetable or soybean oil, it can be added in small quantities to your compost. The wax is quite hard for the microbes in compost to break down, so rip your wax paper into small pieces and add it to your compost a little at a time. Wax paper should biodegrade at around the same rate as leaf mulch.   

Wax paper that uses petroleum-based paraffin shouldn’t be composted as it can add undesirable hydrocarbons to your compost. Inorganic compounds, like hydrocarbons, are very difficult for the microbes in your compost to break down.

If you do use wax paper, the best sort to buy is one with unbleached, natural paper, and a wax coating made using vegetable or soybean oil.